Occupy Fargo-Moorhead: Many views for one movement
FARGO - Some are veteran activists; some have never held a protest placard before. Some favor a flat tax; others want to nix the Federal Reserve. Some want to see corporations held accountable for what they call systemic exploitation of workers; some want to end factory farming.
Their voices and goals vary widely, but the demonstrators of Occupy Fargo-Moorhead have at least one thing in common: In the words of Prairie Johnson, "All of them are just a little pissed off."
Johnson is among the activists who've helped man the corner of Broadway and Second Avenue North around the clock sincethe group rallied there at noon Saturday. The group is demonstrating in solidarity with the broader Occupy Wall Street protests that have spread across the globe.
Since Saturday's rally, Johnson has spent more time demonstrating than sleeping and showed up at 3 a.m. Monday after working a 10-hour shift at a Moorhead bar, armed with sweatshirts, snacks and coffee.
The 22-year-old Fargo native said she's protesting the disproportionate distribution of wealth toward the rich. She said this is her first time joining a public demonstration.
"I was raised by a single mom who worked her ass off," she said. "She shouldn't have had to work so hard for so little."
That's a common sentiment among demonstrators. Michael Larson, a 25-year-old social services worker in Fargo, said many people are voicing displeasure with a system that seems tilted in favor of those at the top.
"I believe it's important that people at some point get together and try to organize against a vastly unjust economic system where we reward the richest and tend to forget the rest," he said.
But like many demonstrators in the movement, he has his own specific wish list. He'd like to do away with the Federal Reserve - he thinks its monetary policies are harmful - and see more power in the hands of the people.
Larson, like other demonstrators, emphasized neither he nor any other individual speaks for the movement as a whole.
A few feet away, John Hallman, a 25-year-old cook at the Courtyard Marriot in Moorhead, brought his own set of beliefs to the group. In a microcosm of the broader movement, his positions defy a neat place on the political spectrum: He's in favor of higher living wages and corporate accountability but also supports a flat tax system and deregulation.
"It's very important to understand that it's different for everybody," said Hallman, who was nearing 24 hours of demonstration by late Monday morning. "The biggest thing that we're here to do is to have dialogue, to converse with each other."
Some demonstrators drew inspiration from personal sources. Karl Keene, a 56-year-old Moorhead apartment manager, spoke with passion about a friend who was laid off after years of loyalty to his company and is now close to losing his home.
"That's just one of millions of the same kind of story," he said. "It's not that there's not enough wealth to go around."
Keene, who has participated in anti-war rallies in years past, said he's fed up with corporate influences on politics and with companies that seem to squeeze workers harder every day.
"It's almost like, 'Let's see how much we can get away with. How bad we can treat them. How many benefits we can take away. What's the least amount we can possibly pay these people?' " he said.
He said the steady trickle of demonstrators here has been coordinated via social media. The group met Sunday and talked of moving to a more permanent base where it could set up tents, he said; for now, people are coming through in shifts.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Marino Eccher at (701) 241-5502