Solidarity protest targets influence of money on government
Occupy Wall Street came to Haines Saturday afternoon, when about 30 people demonstrated for an hour at George Mark Park.
"There are a couple of us who have been following the Occupy Wall Street movement and the movements that they’ve built around the country, and we decided that this was something that needed to happen here," said resident Mike Denker.
Participants stood in the rain and held signs with messages such as, "Corporations are not people; money is not speech," and "Banks got bailed out; we got sold out."
One of the signs, "Free Alixanne," referred to Haines High School graduate Alixanne Goodman, who was one of approximately 700 demonstrators arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge earlier this month.
Resident Michele Wing said she attended the Haines gathering "to show that there are people, even in Haines, who are united against corporate greed."
Denker said the group formed on short notice. "This is quite a showing for starting last night at about 9:30."
Former legislative candidate Tim June said worldwide protests "are recognizing the inequities of corporate personhood."
"A lot of this energy is being driven by young people, many of whom are saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in college debt, with no prospect for future jobs, future employment and upward mobility."
Saturday’s event opened with residents reading statements from the Declaration of the Occupation of New York City, which states corporations "run our governments" and "place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality."
John White, a longtime fisherman who now works as an energy rater, said he was demonstrating to bring power to keep the movement going. "Wall Street should be taxed on stock sales. Our government could make billions on that. That doesn’t happen because the rich have influence to keep that from happening. We need to have the influence."
White said he doesn’t think there is a middle class anymore. "I’m demonstrating for representative government of the people. It’s supposed to be, ‘We the people.’ We’ve got to wake each other up."
White said Alaska is "fat" compared to the Lower 48 and that he himself is comfortable. "We’re ready to share and work together as a community. We have to turn this thing around. It’s going to have to be up to us."
His black lab, Dolly Varden, sported a "Corporations run government; restore power to the people" sign hanging from her collar. "She’s showing signs of being a pretty smart dog."
Resident Brenda Jones questioned some of the demonstrators Saturday, but said "dialogue and open communication can only be helpful."
"I’m just trying to understand what the message is and trying to hear what they’re saying and what their point is and what they hope to accomplish."
Denker, a fuel company worker, said Saturday’s demonstration was to show solidarity with other protests nationwide. He said the rally wasn’t anti-business or anti-government, but aimed at the influence of big business in government decisions.
"It’s about empowering citizens to take our country back from the corporations that have infected our government. With the Citizens United (Supreme Court) decision, corporations have become ‘super citizens.’ They have more power, more influence, more access to government and more protection from government."
Denker said the rise of corporate power means there is no longer equality and justice in the United States. "They have more rights and power than we do. I want a redefinition of what it means to be a person in this country."
The Declaration of Independence said citizens have an obligation to "alter or abolish forms of government that deny people their basic rights," Denker said. "Our forefathers told us what to do when a form of government does not secure those rights."
Denker, who fought the Haines Borough Planning Commission last fall over a variance that conflicted with local law, said there are issues in Haines that parallel national questions about equality.
"In Haines I’d like to see enforcement of code regardless of who you are, including the planning commission. If we have things in code, they apply to all of us, regardless of whatever. I want equality and justice for all, including all the way up."
Denker said he might seek a "general assembly" of concerned residents to send a statement of local concerns to Occupy Wall Street protesters, and directed Saturday’s attendees to the website http://www.occupytogether.org.
Resident George Figdor suggested "an indoor general assembly" as "the Alaska version" of Occupy Wall Street. "I noticed a lot of people in New York are still wearing T-shirts."