Occupy Aspen gathering support
October 23, 2011
ASPEN – A steady crowd of 20 to 30 demonstrators rallied for a second Occupy Aspen on Saturday, airing their grievances with the political and financial systems and mulling the movement’s potential to invoke change.
The worldwide “Occupy” movement expresses discontent with the current financial and political systems. The movement’s rallying cry is that 1 percent of the population control a disproportionate amount of wealth and policy-making decisions.
“Aspen is where the 1 percent goes to play, but it’s also where a lot of us live and work,” said Jeannie Perry, one of the event’s organizers. “Without us, this wouldn’t be a tourist destination, because we’re the ones that clean the sheets and cook the food and groom the trails.”
Held at Wagner Park, the protest took in a broad range of grievances from various supporters who ranged from left to right on the political spectrum.
Those who oppose the protests say the systematic problems cannot be blamed on one group of people, the 1 percent. They say that attitude is pitting people against each other.
Most everyone can agree that there is a shortage of employment opportunities in the country, and many said Saturday that there is a lack of leadership from elected officials.
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Supporters said the broad discontent may be a good thing because it may lead to broad change. The Colorado Occupy protesters are no different than other demonstrators who are expressing frustration, and politicians are beginning to hear them.
Perry said that she will visit the Capitol in Denver to be part of a meeting with Gov. John Hickenlooper. She said the organizers from all of the Occupy protests in Colorado will participate in the meeting.
Local elected officials have also taken notice.
Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland stopped by the protest to listen in on what the supporters of the movement were discussing.
“I wanted to hear what was going on,” Ireland said. “I think greed is one of the seven deadly sins. … I’m opposed to it. But I don’t know that I agree, or if anybody agrees with everything that was said [at the protest].”
The wide range of topics discussed were anonymously written down on the “grievance board” by supporters or just passersby. They included anything from the need for noncorporate-funded elections to forgiving of student loans. Some of the statements on the grievance board made demands such as “We want our democracy back,” or proclamations like “we are all immigrants.”
Blanca O’Leary, the chair of the Pitkin County Democratic Party, visited the rally and said that the autonomy of the Occupy movement is important to keep in mind as the protests are growing.
“This is bigger than any party,” O’Leary said.
Also making a brief appearance at the rally was former Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis, who mingled with supporters.
The demonstrations remained peaceful throughout the day and there was no counter-protest. Police walked through the pedestrian mall occasionally, but mainly on normal patrols.
The movement has seen protests pop up all over Colorado and is growing downvalley, where there is now an Occupy Glenwood.
Opponents of the Occupy Aspen movement say that because Aspen’s residents are considered wealthy, it doesn’t make sense to have an Occupy protest here. Perry disagrees.
“Aspen is exactly the place,” Perry said. “You kind of get used to the ways things are in this valley. It’s not the norm. You forget that people are losing their homes and there aren’t any jobs.”
Occupy Aspen organizers said they are planning on rallying at the Wagner Park location every Saturday for the foreseeable future. They are also planning a Halloween event, where supporters of the movement will go trick-or-treating at homes where they consider the residents to be in the top 1 percent.
Five homes so far have been picked for the event in which supporters hope to engage in a dialogue with homeowners or, at the very least, receive some candy.