More than 100 residents from the Cleveland area gathered around the Free Stamp at Willard Park Thursday afternoon to begin a downtown Occupy Cleveland.
The protestors are locally embracing the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City. But while the images from the New York protests have been tinged with violence, the environment in Cleveland remained positive as protestors held up signs and passing drivers honked and waved in support.
Jacob Wagner, one of a number of people heading up the Cleveland group, said the group has already made an effort to keep things as peaceful as possible by working with various departments of the city.
Michael Layshock, junior history major, said he read about the movement and wanted to get involved locally in Cleveland.
“The financial industry is single-handedly ruining the country and I think people really need to take a stand against that,” Layshock said. “That’s what we’re here to do.”
Greg Stoner, junior political science major, said he’s concerned about the amount of debt students incur to get an education.
“We hear people say all the time, like my parents, ‘Oh, well I started out with nothing when I was your age,’” Stoner said. “Well, I would love to start out with nothing, but I’m starting out with a mountain of debt on my shoulders.”
Although Willard Park is currently serving as headquarters for the group, Occupy Cleveland has permits to expand past Willard Park into the Southwest quadrant of Public Square from now until October 17.
Erin McCardle, one of the volunteers working with city officials to keep the peace, said the permits do not cover overnight occupation of the parks.
“We’re still trying to figure out the legality of those things, ” McCardle said.
She said volunteers are trying to work out how to continue their long-term occupation without being arrested. The group could possibly stay at the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument in Public Square since those are both private properties, McCardle said, and protesters would not require permission from the city to stay there.
Richard Stanislaw, assistant professor of political science, said he thought the movement seemed to be gathering momentum, but still needed to expand.
“It seems like a potentially important moment in the democracy,” Stanislaw said. “During this time of uncertainty and anger and frustration and recession, these grassroots responses seem an important aspect of how the democracy functions. I’m curious to see what’s going on and see it at its inception.”
Contact Amber Wade at [email protected]