'Occupy Wall Street' spreads all the way to Anchorage

The Anchorage Daily NewsOctober 6, 2011 

ANCHORAGE — A woman in a boxy blue sedan waited at the light Wednesday on Sixth Avenue when she spotted the protesters along Town Square. Each held a sign.

"The people are too big to fail."

"Get money out of politics."

"I can't afford a lobbyist."

The driver leaned on the horn -- a salute to the expanding cloud of 140-or-so demonstrators -- as she passed. Her license plate: "INDICT."

Indict indeed. The "Occupy Anchorage" demonstration, promoted largely on Facebook, was the latest in a series of protests held in cities across the country in a show of solidarity with Wall Street protesters decrying various social ills that they say are linked to corporate greed and a lack of accountability for the national housing meltdown.

"Homelessness. Foreclosures, robo-signing of foreclosures," said Anchorage protest organizer Brian MacMillan. "Child poverty or child hunger. The unemployment rate, one in 10 in America without a job. Jeez, what isn't there to protest?"

MacMillan, a member of a stage hand union, saw friends posting links to the September Occupy Wall Street protests and subsequent demonstrations and realized no one had started a similar movement in Anchorage. He created a Facebook page Sunday night. He arranged for like-minded demonstrators to meet at a local brewpub Tuesday to talk.

"Anchorage's activist history is kind of slim. I was expecting five or six of my friends. People I know," he said. More than 65 people showed up for the Tuesday meeting, he said.

The protests in New York have led to confrontations with authorities, including numerous arrests. Wednesday's gathering in Anchorage appeared to be a peaceful one.

Flanked by TV news trucks, the crowd settled cross-legged in a large, loose circle as a man with the words "Social Justice" painted on his face carried a megaphone from person to person.

University of Alaska Anchorage anthropology student Jay Stariwat asked the crowd why corporations have more rights than people. His protest sign: "Money is like manure. If you pile it up, it stinks, but if you spread it around, it's good."

The aims at the Anchorage demonstration, and the similar events in cities such as Seattle, Boston and Chicago, aren't always clear. Occupy Wall Street generally targets corporate greed and, according to the nonprofit Adbusters, demands creation of a presidential commission aimed at ending financial influence over D.C. decision-makers.

Does that mean campaign finance reform, or more drastic changes to American politics? Some protesters on Wednesday said they don't know yet. Others said the demonstrations are simply a start.

"We're getting together to envision what the alternative is," MacMillan said.

A similar gathering is planned for Saturday downtown.

To read more, visit www.adn.com.

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