Occupy Columbus Rally Aims To Show Unity

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When 71-year-old Sara Dawson told her children she’d be coming to the Occupy Columbus rally today, they asked if they should have bail money ready.

“I’ve been waiting 25 years for the U.S. to wake up,” the Columbus native said. “We’ve been buying our elected officials, not electing them.”

Dawson said the power of the movement is its nonviolence. Sign-bearing demonstrators came and went from the crowd in front of the Statehouse throughout the morning, but the group numbered about 50 to 90 throughout the day, peaking at more than 100 around noon.

Protesters had a variety of demands and grievances, disparaging such things as corporate irresponsibility, outsourcing, student-loan debt and the media. The group sought to show solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City, according to its website.

“I want to see a job for everyone that wants one,” shouted Kevin Keef, 53, of Palatine, Ill. “ (Wall Street) got their bailout, where is our bailout?”

Many passersby honked in agreement while a few shouted derisively, but Columbus police and State Highway Patrol officers, who maintained a visible presence nearby, reported no incidents.

“I think the success of the country depends on the success of this movement,” said Bob Letcher, 62, of Westerville. He held a sign — “Cornell PhD will teach/tutor for food” — which he said represented the need for education in the country.

The attention of the movement was briefly diverted as Richard Shaffer, a street preacher from Minnesota, began shouting and preaching at the crowd. He said he was on his way to the Ohio State University campus when he happened upon the rally.

“The word is not wasted. It is never wasted,” Shaffer said. “If it were a group of baseball players, I’d preach to them, too.”

Trevor Anderson, 21, of Columbus, said corporate influence on government and income inequality brought him to the rally.

“The progress we’re making is slow,” he said, “If movements escalate too quickly, they can become violent.”

Bethany Powell, 24, of Youngstown, an employee of JP Morgan Chase, held a sign that read, “Mean Corporations Suck.” She said she thought involvement in the movement was the best way to make a difference.

“It would be a bad idea for people who oppose the corporate model not to get involved in one,” she said, “You need to have people in the corporation who believe they should be responsible. My ideas will be the ones they keep as I move up.”

The group plans to hold a “general assembly” at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday Downtown at the amphitheater in Bicentennial Park to organize future events.

Tristan Navera is a fellow in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism Statehouse News Bureau.