Occupy Charleston Back from Obscurity
Group had largely fallen out of the spotlight after lukewarm October demonstrations.
If gaining attention is half the battle for the Occupy movement, Thursday’s takeover of a Michele Bachmann event in Mount Pleasant could be deemed a huge success by its organizers.
The group's emergence Thursday is the first time the public has heard from them since tepid protests in mid-October drew small crowds.
By contrast on Thursday, in front of a throng of reporters who broadcast the raucous demonstration around the globe, roughly 30 or so Occupy Charleston protesters stopped Bachmann’s speech and forced her to briefly leave the stage under police escort.
The protesters say the demonstration was their way of sharing their views, and ambushing Bachmann’s event is the only way their grassroots effort can do it, they say.
“People in power create this illusion … by setting up big events like this on a warship… that they have consensus, that what they are saying is in the best interest of everyone,” said protester Max Brewer.
The Occupy movement, which has roots to the three-month-long protests in New York’s financial district, seeks to show that the vast majority of Americans aren’t represented by government and the big business and wealthy individuals they say control politics.
“They are funded by huge corporations, which represent the top 1 percent of wealth in America,” Brewer said following the protest.
Bachmann, a Minnesota Republican, was in Mount Pleasant to discuss national security aboard the USS Yorktown, a retired WWII-era aircraft carrier. The venue is a popular stopping point for such candidate speeches.
While Occupy Wall Street has been in the public spotlight since September, Occupy Charleston has had a less noticeable — practically silent — public presence.
So on Thursday, when the group made it back into the public eye, Occupy supporters were jubilant. High-fives were shared as the crowd of mostly 20-somethings poured off the Yorktown. On Facebook, congratulatory messages from across the country were shared.
“We are in huge economic upheaval, and we believe the policies of the U.S. government are not representing our needs,” Brewer said.
Spreading that message while cameras were focused on Bachmann — who Occupy protesters say does not represent their views — is the most effective way to reach a large audience, they say.
“We came to Michele Bachmann’s rally, and we essentially just gave out some information,” said Adrianna Veredi, another protester. “We have to give ourselves a voice.”
Protesters read from a speech that railed on Bachmann for variety of issues, including her alignment with big business and conservative political action groups.
“You cater to the 1 percent,” they yelled. “You oppose paying hardworking Americans a living wage and refuse to promote realistic solutions to economic problems.”
The group repeated the line “this does not help the American people” throughout the three-minute demonstration.
Brewer and Veredi, who were nominated as spokespeople for the protest, didn’t discuss their next steps. Also on Thursday House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, was interrupted by Occupy protestors at a Houston speech.
“We hope that other people will feel inclined to join us and realize they have power in this system, even though the illusion is that they do not,” Brewer said.