Karen Ingram news editor
Across the nation, the Occupy Wall Street movement spawned protests in cities everywhere on Saturday. Manhattan was no exception. More than 150 people crowded along the street holding protest signs. As cars drove by, drivers honked their horns to show support. Some people rolled down their windows to flash peace signs or thumbs up to the protesters. Each sign of support was met with a cheer from the crowd.
“Massey mines – 29 dead, CEO retires, compensated millions and shielded from prosecution,” one protest sign read. The sign was held by Bill Glover, Manhattan resident and a government employee, who said he worries about pensions being taken away from government employees.
“It’s time to start thinking about the middle class,” Glover said. “We’ve got to change the people in power, the people who keep voting ‘no’ on everything.”
Julie Ivy, 2010 K-State alumna, attended Manhattan MHK’s first protest with her children Kaiden and Deva, ages 4 and 3, respectively. Both children wore red, white and blue. Deva had a heart with the pattern of the American flag painted on her cheek.
“I’m just kind of struggling to make ends meet right now,” Ivy said. “You can’t make ends meet, especially with children.”
Ivy graduated with a degree in social science and has been struggling in the work force ever since, only able to find jobs that pay just over minimum wage. She can no longer afford child care because of her low wages, but cannot find a job without child care. Her student loans have left her with more than $40,000 in debt that she can not afford to pay. She and her children live with her mother, who is also caring for a niece.
“I was trying to go to school to better myself,” Ivy said. “Not everyone is living the quote-unquote American Dream.”
Occupy Wall Street is an ongoing series of protests regarding various social issues in America and around the world. Participants identify themselves as “the 99 percent.”
“We’re complaining about the fact that Wall Street wrecked the economy three years ago and nobody’s held responsible for that,” an Occupy MHK flier passed out at the event read. “We are the 99 percent. We are getting kicked out of our homes. We are forced to choose between groceries and rent. We are denied quality medical care … We are working long hours for little pay and no rights, if we’re working at all. We are getting nothing while the other 1 percent is getting everything.”
Opposition to the Occupy Wall Street movement has mostly come from critics who say the movement has no clear agenda and that the protesters’ list of demands is too big and the subjects too broad.
On the other side of the park stood Dustin Kucerik, St. George, Kan., resident, holding a sign that read: “If you rob a bank it’s theft, if a bank robs you it’s business.”
Kucerik worked full time until a genetic disorder triggered two years ago and left him unable to work. Kucerik said he cannot get the medical help he needs for his condition because he has no insurance. He cannot get insurance because he cannot work. Also, he can not get on disability unless he has medical proof of his condition from a doctor, which he cannot afford to get without money or insurance.
“It’s a vicious circle,” Kucerik said. “Right now, I’m trying to fight the system and get medical help.”
Scott Poister, one of the organizers of Occupy MHK and research technician in biology at K-State, said he did not expect such a large turnout a week ago. As the days passed and more and more people signed up for the Facebook page and the Facebook event, he realized there would be a larger turnout than he had originally thought. Poister said he was pleased by the turnout, but unable to participate in the protest most of the time because he spent most of his time “micromanaging,” namely, making signs for people who did not have any.
“The point is to get on the street,” Poister said.
Not all who showed up for the event stood on the street with a sign. On a bench nearby, Maria Snyder, senior in anthropology and women’s studies, sat with her laptop doing homework. Snyder said she felt the event was important enough to attend, but did not want to fall behind in her studies.
Snyder is a nontraditional student with three children and one grandchild. As her own graduation draws near and her daughter, who recently became a mother, prepares to start college, Snyder said she worries about their futures and whether a college education will help either of them be more hirable in the job market.
“It’s a bit of a waiting game,” Snyder said.
Simone Dorsey, senior in family studies and human services, sat with Snyder and agreed; education does not get people the jobs it used to.
“We’re told as kids, ‘go to college. You’ll flip burgers for a while, but once you get out, you’ll get a good job,'” Dorsey said. “And when you get out, guess what? You’re still flipping burgers.”
Both Snyder and Dorsey said they have been following the Occupy Wall Street movement since it began. Dorsey said it was important to make people in Manhattan aware of what was going on, as many in the area were still unaware of Occupy Wall Street and what it was about.
“If you’re not mad, you’re not paying attention,” Dorsey said.
Jeremy Smith, creator of Occupy MHK’s Facebook page and Manhattan resident, said they would be having regular protests in Triangle Park on Saturdays, but would probably push the beginning time to 4 p.m. to allow more daylight. Details will be posted on their Facebook page in the near future.
“Don’t let it stop here,” Smith said. “Let it be the beginning.”