The “99 percent” is made up of people of all walks.
Veterans, retirees, nurses, teachers, students, union workers, government employees, real estate agents and politicians all gathered to rally and march through downtown Friday evening. State Rep. Timm Ormsby, the Rev. Happy Watkins, Daniel Morrissey, a corporate law professor from Gonzaga, and David Smith, Spokane County Democrats chairman, were among the speakers who rallied the crowd before the march.
The march was peaceful, and police presence was nearly nonexistent.
Protesters in cities from Seattle and Spokane to New York and Boston call themselves the “99 percent,” angered that 1 percent of the U.S. population controls much of the country’s wealth. They’re protesting about a variety of social and economic issues, including health care, high unemployment, corporate greed, tax cuts for the rich and the wealth gap.
Spokane Mayor Mary Verner did not march but came to listen to the speakers and talk with constituents beforehand.
When asked if she was aligning herself politically with the movement, she said, “I’m not sure there is a political alignment with this movement.”
“I’m here to hear people’s stories and point of view,” she said. “They’re frustrated. I understand that.”
Marchers carried signs that read “This is what Democracy looks like,” “Heal America, Tax Wall Street,” “End the Fed” and “Health care for all,” among many other messages.
Protester Cindy White called herself a longtime activist. As a youth, the retired Navy veteran was a staunch Republican, but she has since moved to the other end of the spectrum. She now identifies with socialism, she said.
“Corporations are taking over and leaving the middle class to devolve into the lower class, which is a complete threat to democracy,” she said. “With all the greed in the upper 1 percent, they’re not seeing that they’re writing their own death warrant. They can’t sustain (this).”
Between 200 and 300 people marched, far more than the dozen or fewer who have been protesting at any given time near the Spokane Club and the Thomas S. Foley Federal Building since Sept. 28. Occupy Spokane’s Facebook page has more than 4,000 “likes,” and many people, including Spokane firefighters, demonstrated their support by honking as they drove by Friday.
They marched from Riverside Avenue and Monroe Street to the Chase Bank branch on Main Avenue, before traveling down Wall Street. Along the way, protesters chanted “Banks got bailed out, people got sold out,” and “They say ‘profits,’ we say ‘people.’ ”
Erik Phillips, a real estate agent, said the current economic conditions are the manifestation of many things done over time by corporations and the government, making it difficult to pinpoint a single grievance.
“There are many things,” he said. “The system is broken and we need to fix it. Everybody has ideas. We’re just all getting together to discuss them.”
And protesters say they aren’t going to give up their fight.
“This is the beginning of a prolonged struggle,” Phillips said. “We’re not going anywhere.”