Thousands gather Saturday to “Occupy Milwaukee”
Seeing streets filled with people is a familiar scene in the city of festivals. But on Saturday as the wind howled through the heart of downtown, people gathered with a different kind of purpose.
The march continued to M&I Bank, where the Milwaukee Police Department set up a perimeter with officers on horseback on the corner of Wells and Water. There, one speaker said, “We’ll be here all week.” The group began to dissapate by 1 p.m., but much of the crowd marched back to Zeidler Park to congregate and continue the day’s events.
“We want to get attention to the inequalities in wages and wealth,” said Cindy Pawelski, a member of the organization team. “There are a lot of issues, and everyone has their own.” Pawelski mentioned opposition to war spending, bank bailouts and Gov. Scott Walker as motivating reasons for the movement.
“[Gov. Walker] is devastating our state,” she said.
Many of the signs and chants from the crowd were directed at Walker. Adjacent to the park, individuals from the “Recall Walker” effort sold signs and handed out fliers. A familiar chant of “Hey-hey, ho-ho, Scott Walker has got to go!” rang through the streets during the march.
Most of the city’s key unions were also represented at the gathering, including the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), United Steelworkers (USW), the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).
SEIU activist Dorothy (who asked that her last name not be used) was out to send a message to politicians and corporations. “We’re alive and well,” she said.
“The middle class has really taken a bad hit,” she said. “They’ve given up a lot of benefits over the years and now it seems like they’re trying to crush them altogether.”
Dennis Evans, 58, participated in the demonstration because he is concerned about the state of Social Security and Medicare as he gets closer to the age of retirement.
Bryan Pfeifer is an organizer with “Bail out the People“, which stood in solidarity with the Occupy movement, and he has been at protests across the country.
“We are in total opposition to poverty, racism and war. We want jobs. We want a moratorium on foreclosures, we want a cancellation of student debt and we want relief for the people.”
Pfeifer also participated in the Occupy Green Bay protest held on Friday, where he marched on the Green Bay Chase Bank. “Chase Bank is the number one bank in this country responsible for the most amount of foreclosures in the United States,” he said, explaining why Chase Bank was chosen specifically as a target for protests. “They are responsible for refusing to have a moratorium on foreclosures, despite the fact that there’s many egregious practicies within the bank and on these forclosures. People are illegally being kicked out of their homes.”
One woman, Debbie Davis, a performance artist and educator, came dressed as Lady Liberty (on stilts). “I came as the Statue of Liberty to remind us that (she) was a gift inspired by our aspirations to create a government for, by and of the people. And it looks like we have a government that’s dominated by corporate interests.”
With so many different groups being represented, the goals of the movement were somewhat nebulous. However, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, activists met on Sunday to flesh out ideas and work toward focusing the movement more specifically to Milwaukee.