The Occupy Wall Street movement may have started far away in New York, but Valdosta’s citizens are rallying to join the growing movement, with the hope of bringing change to their own community.
“We have the right to peacefully assemble,” Erin Hurley, senior anthropology major, said. “It’s time to take back our country and put it in the hands of the people, not just one percent.” She is one of the organizers of Occupy Valdosta, which will be protesting on Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The organization has a Facebook page with over 150 followers, about 75 of whom are expected to join the protest, according to Hurley, who is one of the organizers of the event.
Occupy Valdosta held a meeting on Wednesday, which both students and community members attended, to discuss their plans for the protest and what they hope the movement will achieve for the community and the nation.
Protesters will bring signs and walk from Drexel Park, to the Chamber of Commerce, to the Valdosta Daily Times, to the Bank of America to voice their discontent about certain policies and practices of the government and the ruling elite.
Observers of the movement are intrigued with the movement, which has been compared to the right-leaning Tea Party movement by certain members of the media.
“The protests are significant as a reflection of frustration with the state of the economy, the lack of progress in job creation, and the crushing debt for many consumers and students,” Dr. James T. LaPlant, a political science professor, said.
Valdosta citizens participating in the protest are optimistic of change, but are trying to stress the importance of unity in the movement.
“Part of the point is to let the people of Valdosta know that we need to focus on the things we agree on and be united with that, and that’s the only way we are going to get our cities and country back,” Jeff Rushe, a local computer business owner, said.
Occupy Valdosta is not the sole movement in Georgia following the Wall Street protesters. There is an Occupy Athens movement, as well as a Gainesville one.
The participation of college students may be instrumental in keeping the movement alive.
“I think it’s crucial that college students are involved. With the posters for the protest on campus we are expecting a decent turnout number of students. There should be more discussion about what’s going on locally and nationally,” Austin Sullivan, a senior anthropology major, said.
According to reports of the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York, most notably from the New York Times, the protesters have been of all ages and backgrounds, much like the Occupy Valdosta movement’s members.
Hurley says she will be $15,000 in student debt when she graduates next year, and unemployment among undergrads is a one of the reasons she has for supporting the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Not all of Valdosta’s students are fully informed of the situation with Wall Street, the economy, and how it all could affect their futures.
“I really don’t know what all of this means. Homecoming is on my mind right now, not the economy,” Elizabeth Fournet, a freshman psychology major, said.
The Occupy Wall Street movement, referred to online as #OCCUPYWALLSTREET, began in June with a call to action from the Canadian organization, Adbusters.
The Adbusters Media Foundation describes itself on its website saying, “We are a global network of artists, activists, writers, pranksters, students, educators and entrepreneurs who want to advance the n
new social movement of the information age. Our aim is to topple existing power structures and forge a major shift in the way we will live in the 21st century.”
The group cites the Egyptian Tahrir uprising and similar protests as its inspiration.
On Aug. 23, a group of internet users known as “Anonymous” joined the cause, voicing their support by releasing a video in support of #OCCUPYWALLSTREET.
According to the Adbuster’s Blog, this was the plan: “On September 17, we want to see 20,000 people flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy
Wall Street for a few months. Once there, we shall incessantly repeat one simple demand in a plurality of voices.”
Currently, #OCCUPYWALLSTREET is on Day 27 and protestors show no intent of leaving any time soon.
Some of Occupy Valdosta’s members are hopeful the movement will satiate the frustrations many citizens have felt about the efforts of American citizens to change the tide of discontent so many people have felt about the recession.
“A lot of people have been waiting for this grassroots movement to take root. This is the movement,” Matt Flumerfelt, a candidate for the City Council at Large, said.
Lavisa Darling, Amber Smith, Trevor Smith and Shambree Wartel also contributed to this article.