Activists gather to ‘occupy’ Downtown San Diego

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A loosely structured protest movement that formed in
New York City three weeks ago to decry the perceived sins of banks,
corporations, political elites and other power brokers has materialized in the
opposite corner of the nation as hundreds of chanting, sign-waving
demonstrators have taken to the streets of San Diego.

Supporters of the social network-driven campaign, which began last month
as a rally dubbed “Occupy Wall Street,” began gathering at Children's Park
in the Marina district in the late afternoon Friday before marching north to Civic
Center Plaza at City Hall for a demonstration and sit-in.

There were no immediate reports of unruly behavior or illegal activity
among participants, who expressed an array of reasons for becoming involved in
the nascent local crusade, christened “Occupy San Diego.”

“We are all here for different reasons, but we stand in solidarity
against Wall Street,” 19-year-old Amanda Santoni remarked while serving free
food at the initial meet-up spot at First and Island avenues.

Ray Lutz, an organizer and spokesman for the activists, said the protest
would not be short-lived.

“This is going to be going on until we get a response,” Lutz said.

Bobby Godinez of National City, who belongs to a union representing
boilermakers, expressed hope that the new civil dissent movement could aid in
organized labor's longtime fight to improve the lot of average Americans.

“We work very hard, and we deserve fair wages,” Godinez said. “It
isn't fair that CEOs make record profits while we struggle.”

Watching over the growing assembly, San Diego Assistant Police Chief
Boyd Long said his department's officers were there in sufficient numbers to
defend protesters' First Amendment rights and personal safety while making sure
people remained orderly.

Long said the crowds seemed well-behaved and generally cheerful as the
event was getting under way.

“I don't anticipate any problems,” Long said as the demonstration
began wending its way toward the municipal government complex on Third Avenue.

By 5:30 p.m., at least 1,000 cheering, slogan-shouting people had
paraded to the courtyard next to City Hall. A frequent chanted refrain was “We
are the 99 percent,” referring to the protesters' contention that most of the
nation's wealth is in the hands of about 1 percent of the population.

Among the phrases displayed on the demonstrators' signs were: “End
Corporate Rule”; “The Banks Got Bailed Out, and We Got Sold Out”; “CEO Pay
vs. Worker Pay in the U.S. — $475:1”; and “Protect the 99% — Tax the 1%.”

The local rally was staged “in protest of the global financial
corruption currently invading politics, media and corporations, exemplified by
the recent financial-industry meltdown and subsequent recession,” according to
the group's website.

The participants would “peacefully occupy” the public courtyard
indefinitely, or until they got desired action from “all levels of government,
including the city and county of San Diego, the state of California, the
federal government and … private and public banks and corporations,” the
announcement stated.

However, the group agreed to yield the plaza this evening to make way
for an observance of Yom Kippur, Judaism's holiest and most somber day, that
previously had been scheduled for tonight and Saturday morning. Following those
services, Occupy San Diego participants would return to the public courtyard
over the weekend, according to rally organizers.

Organizers of the protest rally did not immediately detail their self-
described “list of demands.”

The ongoing demonstration will include marches, sit-ins, educational
programs, “practice of the democratic process” and “general assembly
meetings wherein solutions to overlapping issues are identified,” the group's
online message asserted.

Organizer Lutz encouraged San Diegans to take part.

“The Occupy Wall Street movement is sweeping across the country,” Lutz
said.

“People from all walks of life, political persuasions and occupations
are joining together to demand that our economic system become more just. Join
our movement. With you, we can bring about change.

Known collectively as Occupy Together, the rallies have spurred tens of
thousands of protesters, a large majority of them young adults, to come
together in recent weeks in dozens of cities, including Los Angeles.

The events have been largely peaceful, though in New York some of the
dissidents have gotten into scuffles with police, and more than 700 were
arrested Saturday after they swarmed the Brooklyn Bridge and shut down a lane
of traffic for several hours.

Categories: KUSI