Hundreds of Orange County citizens joined the Occupy Wall Street movement in a rally that took place in front of the Irvine Civic Center on Saturday, Oct. 15.
What started out as a few dozen people protesting in Liberty Square in Manhattan’s Financial District on Sept. 17, the Occupy Wall Street movement has gained significant momentum, with other “occupy” actions taking place in cities across the United States and overseas. Occupywallst.org claims that over 1,500 cities globally and over 100 U.S. cities held demonstrations.
On Saturday, tens of thousands of protestors marched in cities overseas, with people gathering in their respective financial districts and capitols. The Associated Press reported rallies in London, Madrid, Sydney, Johannesburg, Rome, Taipei, Seoul and Athens, to name a few.
American protestors then joined their fellow global “occupiers” as they took to their own cities. From New York City to Los Angeles, people gathered in a demonstration of solidarity to protest corporate influence.
More than 600 people of all ages and backgrounds attended the first general assembly at Occupy Orange County in Irvine, gathering on the lawn in front of the Civic Center at 10 a.m. The group then marched from the Civic Center toward the District at Jamboree Road and Barranca Parkway, also stopping by Corporate Park Plaza on the way back.
The protestors bore signs ranging from: “Tax the rich,” “We are the 99%” and “Goldman Sachs was not elected.” Many wore Guy Fawkes masks, others taped dollar bills over their mouths and a woman carried an upside down U.S. flag, an official sign of distress, with a sign on the pole that read, “Bank owned.”
People all over the political spectrum came out Saturday, with some gathering in groups in an effort to get their message across. However, D’Marie Mulattieri, 56, one of the organizers of Occupy OC at Irvine, addressed those gathered and stressed a need for unity in a common goal.
“In order for all of us to attain our goals and our individual causes, the first thing is that we have to get our government back,” she said. “We’ve got to get the money out of politics, so let’s stay focused on that goal. That’s step one. Once we get our government back, you all can pursue whatever cause you want to, because until we do that, you’re wasting your time and energy. I know we all have our political [and] religious affiliations. That’s the beauty of our county, we have the freedom to do that. This is not the place for that. We are here to reclaim our government … so let’s stay focused on that goal, and then we can go out and pursue our individual causes.”
After the march, people gathered around the makeshift stage at the Civic Center where anyone could speak, sing or perform at an open mic. UCI professor of history Mark Levine was one of the speakers, and he emphasized the urgency and importance of the issues at hand.
“That’s the single most important thing we have to realize,” he said. “Not only do we have nothing left to lose, if this keeps going on our kids are really going to have nothing left to lose. We need to let our friends know how important it is to be here now and not wait until they have no choice.”
Several students from around Orange County also came out to voice their dissent. UCI students Henry Kan and Johan Abrodo came out to the Civic Center after seeing the protestors march past their apartment complex.
“I think it’s very important to realize how important students are for the future of this country and the world,” Kan said. [Education] built the U.S. to be the great power that it was, and now we’re falling. It’s about time that people finally came out and voiced their opinions. We’re doing this for fellow human beings, citizens.”
Abrodo mentioned the lack of activism among UCI students: “I feel that there is a lack of awareness, even personally, mostly because of our focus on studying. We’re not as aware of events happening outside of campus … maybe it’s that we don’t care.”
Steve, a first-year student at CSU Fullerton, cited financial concerns as his reasons for being at the protest.
“I don’t have a job, I can’t live on campus because my parents can’t afford it,” he said. “I’m worried about how I’m going to survive especially if the job market stays the way it is. I’m also pissed about tuition raises … my parents are just trying to get me a good education, and they shouldn’t have to struggle.”
Thomas Doan, a senior at La Quinta High School who plans to attend UCI next fall, expressed his frustrations as well.
“We’re about to be adopted into this system that we feel is corrupt where the wealthy is careless and we just want to be able to voice our opinions,” Doan said. “The new generation is [going] to take up the responsibilities that have been left behind … we just want to let the wealthy know that they can’t just push us around.”
Professor Levine called on UCI students to come out to occupy.
“I think there’s … 27,000 students at UCI?,” he said. “There should be 27,000 people here. This is your future. I think the people who have the most to lose are young people.
All the students in Irvine have been handed a gift. All these people have come together to start this organization. They’ve done the hard work. Now it’s the easy work. Just show up. If you’re not willing to occupy [Aldrich Hall], then occupy city hall. You have to push, because by the time you graduate there will be nothing. I think the sense of urgency is just starting to be understood, but it needs to be felt more quickly.
I hope this inspires people. There’s no reason not to [come out], look where we live. What else do you have to do on a 75-degree afternoon? Bring a book! Bring a laptop, study here. It’s just important to be here as a body and to let people know you’re here and you’re not willing to take it anymore.”
The Occupy Orange County in Irvine plans to “occupy” the area in front of the Civic Center indefinitely and conduct marches to various locations in Irvine, focusing primarily on the financial district.