With protest signs and chants ringing through downtown Walnut Creek, an "Occupy" group Wednesday evening expressed its frustration with inequities and corporate ties to the country's political elite.
Clyde Rich of Rossmoor decried "a toxic politics that is not only destroying the economy but the government and the American dream."
The demonstration seemed to peak at 4:30 with three short speeches (including one by Rich) that drew about 125 people to the sidewalk in front of the Bank of America on North Main Street. At the same time, a stone's throw away, about 40 protesters each waved signs on two corners of Main Street and Mount Diablo.
"The corporations and the wealthiest people, they don't pay taxes," said Kathy Colliau of Walnut Creek, on one corner. "When prices go up, it's the 99 percent that suffer … I'm not poor, but I see it's unfair. It's worse for my (adult) children … I can't imagine what their economic future is."
It appears that globalization has aggravated society's gap between the wealthiest and the majority of people, Colliau said.
A recurring chant was "Hey, hey, ho, ho, corporate greed has got to go."
A sampling of protest signs:
- Banks got bailed out. People got sold out.
- There's enough for everyone's need, but not everyone's greed.
- Eliminate corporate campaign funding.
- Human needs, not BofA greed.
- How is the war economy working for you?
The Occupy Wall Street movement has moved way beyond Wall Street in the last month. In Northern California, it has pushed out to the suburbs. Coinciding with the Walnut Creek demonstration was .
"The collusion between business and government needs to be challenged," said another speaker, Ken Richard of Walnut Creek. Richard said Occupy Wall Street Walnut Creek planned to hold another protest in the same place at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19.
Last Friday, Richard and his activist colleague, Kathy Klein, had lunch at a Chinese restaurant and started talking over ideas for a Walnut Creek protest.
"All the buzz was about Occupy Wall Street," said Richard. Wednesday's action in downtown Walnut Creek came together with emails and Facebook and tweets, and some media contacts, Richard said: "It's an organic movement." Richard said his own activism goes back decades to age 16 in his native Miami working on gay rights.
The activists who showed up were moved by "an inner voice that made us care," said Richard. Although political opponents portray the Occupy movement as an "unruly mob" with an unclear agenda, Richard said the movement has salient issues that move its compassion for:
- 24 million who are unemployed and underemployed.
- 50 million who have no health care.
- 15 million who owe more money on their homes than they are worth.
- 46 million Americans who are in poverty and the working poor.
"We're here today," said Richard. "We are the majority — 99 percent … we are not against capitalism; we are against corporate greed."
Rich, a former head of the Rossmoor Democratic Club, said he represented the senior citizen segment of the 99 percent (referring to the growing gap between the wealthiest 1 percent in the country and the other 99 percent).
"I thought my demonstration days were over and I could sit back and relax," said Rich. "But because today's political situation is so unjust, I realize I can't be silent."
Michael Veiluva of Concord spoke briefly in front of Bank of America. He urged activists that "organizing has to happen immediately." A group that formed Sunday in an informal meeting in Concord — Contra Costa 99 Percent — is looking for stalwarts to join, he said.