Phoenix joins Occupy Wall Street protests against corporate greed

A movement that started in New York to protest corporate greed has spread as far as Tokyo and even caused violence in Rome.

Occupy Wall Street began in lower Manhattan on Sept. 17 and has gained popularity worldwide. Several large cities protested on Saturday in conjunction with the International Day of Action.

Thousands of Valley residents gathered over the weekend for Occupy Phoenix at the César Chávez Plaza in downtown Phoenix.

Rachel Johnson, 22, came down from Casa Grande to participate in Occupy Phoenix on Saturday. Even though she wasn’t born in the ’60s, Johnson said the protests are taking her back to the protests over the Vietnam War.

Johnson said Americans need to stand up for their children and their future.

“One percent of (Americans) get all the money and the rest of us are losing our jobs,” she said. “It didn’t make sense to me.”

Prescott resident Craig Peterson, 41, was at Saturday’s demonstration and said he wants to see sweeping change of the financial system that he sees as not working.

“It’s no longer by the people, for the people and that’s what we’re going to take back,” he said.

(Photo by Aaron Lavinsky)

Peterson has been homeless since the bank foreclosed on his house in Prescott.

“I’m mad as hell,” he said. “I’m not going to take it anymore.”

Bio-medical engineering junior Neekta Hamidi came to the protest Saturday in support of Oxfam America, a group that battles social injustice and poverty.

Americans are mad, Hamidi said, and that anger is universal. Whether the issue is foreign policy or health insurance, Hamidi said she is seeing these protests bring people together.

“It’s a disappointment to democracy for people who don’t know … that Occupy Wall Street is going on,” she said. “This is comparable to the civil rights movement.”

Political science junior Hamzeh Ibrahim echoed Hamidi’s sentiments about the importance of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

“This is a historic social movement,” he said. “The more it grows, the more successful it will be.”

Phoenix resident Fred Barlam, 62, said he has seen his retirement investments drop by 40 percent and the value of his house drop by a third since the recession began.

Barlam said at the Saturday Occupy Phoenix protest that the U.S. needs to return to the capitalism of the ’50s, ’60s and early ’70s. It was a time when corporations paid their fair share of taxes, he said, and politicians cared more about Americans than their respective political party.

“That was when the American middle class was the envy of the world,” Johnson said.

Barlam attended college in the ‘60s and participated in the protests against the Vietnam War. He said his generation changed the course of the country with those protests.

“My generation got screwed,” Barlam said. “Your generation is in the process of getting screwed.”

Graphic design freshman Andrea Seelye protests at "Occupy Phoenix" on Saturday. (Photo by Lillian Reid)

Phoenix residents Manija Sherzada, 28, and Esmeralda Hermosillo, 22, came to the Saturday rally to give food to the protesters. They represented the organization Food Not Bombs that gathers every Sunday to prepare food that they then distribute around the Valley.

On Saturday they offered garbanzo beans with tomatoes, lentils and baked apples.

Protesters arrested

Phoenix Police Sgt. Trent Crump said in an email Sunday that 45 demonstrators were arrested at Margaret T. Hance Park for trespassing. Many demonstrators marched to the park near Central Avenue and Culver Street Saturday evening and remained there beyond the park’s operation hours, Crump said.

“Most of those arrested were passive in nature and no injuries were reported to either officers or demonstrators,” he said.

Former state Sen. Alfredo Gutierrez was among those arrested.

At least two ASU students and two graduates were also arrested.

One of those students was 18-year-old aerospace engineering major Joseph Cappuccio.

“I did this for everyone and I did this because I believe this is right,” Cappuccio said after he was released Sunday evening. “I did this for the right reasons and I don’t regret it.”

Cuppuccio said his charges were lowered from trespassing, a class 3 misdemeanor, to loitering, a class 1 misdemeanor.

Twenty-four-year-old Jeff Siegfried, an ASU graduate, was also among the 45 arrested.

“It’s really exciting to see that the world is waking up,” Siegfried said Sunday. “It’s really exciting to see that what’s happening in the United States is inspiring the rest of the world.”

More arrests were made at the demonstrations on Sunday evening.

One of those arrested was Michael Smith, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served in Afghanistan.

About 80 demonstrators were camping on the sidewalk near César Chávez Plaza on Sunday evening at the time of publication.
It remains unclear how long demonstrators will stay.

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Additional reporting by Kyle Daly, Shawn Raymundo, Kharli Mandeville, Julie Vitkovskaya and Jessica Testa.

Editor’s note: One of the contributing reporters for this story, who was assigned to help gather tweets for live coverage of the protest on Sunday, attended the protest Saturday on her own account as a bystander. This was disclosed to The State Press editors. Her Sunday reporting was used solely for live Twitter updates and had no influence on the angle of the story.


Read The State Press editorial on the Occupy movement.


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