Armed with the slogan “We are the 99 percent,” an estimated 200 Madison residents gathered in Reynolds Park by 6 p.m. Friday to stand with the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York City, aiming to speak up against the influence of corporations in government.
The event, dubbed Occupy Madison by organizers, is one of the many protests scheduled to take place in cities around the country in support of opposition to the power of the 1 percent of people in the United States who control an estimated 50 percent of the country’s wealth.
One of the organizers of the Friday event, Bill Fetty, confirmed the Madison movement does not have a definite leadership structure.
He said the lack of a leader is attributed to the many narratives present in the rally.
“We operate on a horizontal structure where everyone has equal power to voice out their concerns because people have different reasons for being here, but we need to be organized in groups to be stronger together,” he said.
Amanda Love, an attendee of the rally, said she was pleased to see support for the event continue to grow as it progressed.
She said she has been participating in the group’s meetings, and more people are seeking participation in furthering the cause.
“I think this rally attracts people’s attention to protest against the massive influence corporations like the Wall Street has on the government. We are the majority 99 percent, but we feel neglected [and] not listened to. Here, we want to make our voices heard,” Love said.
Love said participation is growing as more and more people feel policymakers have focused more on helping the corporations who fund their campaigns than the citizens who vote for them in office.
Nancy Angsten, one of the supporters of Friday’s rally, was holding a sign reading “Give it back.” Angsten has a disability and said she has not been able to work for 26 years.
“They took my pension away. This rally depends on how strong the people unite. It is important that we, the people, take America back,” Angsten said.
Nathan Punswick, a bank worker, said he was at the rally because he is disappointed with how corporations work. He said morale is now low among the remaining workers at his bank as a direct result of the layoffs the bank has to face after they adopted the government policies.
“I want to see that this kind of rally put some pressure on the suits and ties that haven’t been accountable for their actions,” Nathan said. “They are getting big bonuses while the rest of us are being denied our pensions.”
The grassroots rallies including Occupy Madison have relied heavily on social media such as Facebook and Twitter to reach out for public support. They have also set up a webpage online, linking Occupy Wall Street with other branches of participating major cities.
On their Facebook page, Occupy Madison has recently posted live streaming videos online, documenting their assemblies. The group now has more than 5,000 followers.
“To get people to come is a tricky thing, but we mostly use social media to update supporters on the progress of the rallies,” Fetty said.
According to Fetty, the group has not acquired a permit for the use of Reynolds Park as their operations base. He said the group has elected not to seek a permit because the park is a public space.