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Hundreds join Occupy movement downtown

Several hundred protesters, including students involved in Occupy College Hill, joined the growing Occupy movement Saturday evening in Burnside Park downtown. The movement, which began with the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City, opposes growing economic disparity and corporate greed.

"One percent of the population has all the wealth, and I would like to see it spread out," said Providence resident Catherine Rhodes, who set up a tent prior to the Occupy Providence rally with the intention of camping in the park, which is next to Kennedy Plaza. Several other protesters had similar plans, and some said they intended to stay Sunday night as well.

"That 1 percent is overrepresented in the political system," said Joseph Freitas, who was interviewed with Rhodes.

"I really want to find ways to disconnect money from politics," said Jim Barfood. Barfood, who is middle-aged, said he attended the rally in part to dispel the notion that the Occupy movement is strictly youth-based.

The rally was relatively informal. Speakers did not address the audience for extended periods of time, but rather took the microphone briefly to instigate chants. Those who did give speeches generally paused after each sentence to allow the protesters nearest to them to repeat their words so the entire crowd could hear. The same technique has been used at other Occupy movement demonstrations around the country.

The movement shies away from more traditional forms of organization, placing emphasis on the power of communal decisions. "It doesn't have to be hierarchical to be organized," said Perry Hull GS.

Several dozen students — most involved with Occupy College Hill — marched down to the park together at 5 p.m. Saturday.

Trevor Culhane '15 said the movement addresses many issues he cares about. "At my high school, there was no way to voice that concern," he said.

Anna Muselmann '14 said she had "mixed feelings" about the protest. "I support the cause," she said, but added that the movement's lack of specific goals made the protest seem unfocused.

As the students walked through Burnside Park, other protesters greeted them with cheers and applause.

"It's encouraging to see students," said Providence resident Jay Wills, who spoke Wednesday at Occupy Providence's Teach-In on the Occupy Movement in Salomon 101.

Wills added that he wants to see an even stronger student presence. "The raw intellect at Brown could be used to help us organize," he said. "Their minds could help us answer some of our questions."

"It's exciting to see so many college students and local people from the community united and mobilized in a way I haven't seen yet as a college student here in Providence," said Maggie Millner '13.

The Occupy movement has drawn criticism because its protests of systematic inequality and other societal ills have not been accompanied by policy prescriptions. But Rhode Island resident Deborah Lennon said she has several ideas.

"We need to revamp the tax code so there are no more loopholes, raise corporate tax rates and reform campaign finance regulations so that money doesn't buy votes," she told The Herald.

Protesters marched through downtown Providence, making several stops along the way. First, they stood outside the world headquarters of billion-dollar conglomerate Textron for several minutes, erupting in chants of "Textron World and BP, Shell, take your wars and go to hell."

The protesters then marched to Providence Place Mall, where they voiced support for the recent nationwide strike of 45,000 Verizon workers.

"We are all working people. An injury to one is an injury to all, and we will be undefeatable if we stand in solidarity," said Justin Kelly, a member of the painters' union, in a speech.

The march ended at the State House, where ralliers flooded the steps and vowed to continue their fight.

"This is day one of an indefinite occupation that we intend to last in whatever form it takes, and however long it takes, to establish a society for, of and by the people," one protester announced.



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