Shouts of “people’s needs, not corporate greed” and “Wall Street, you are wrong” rang out near the Commons on Wednesday as the “Occupy Wall Street” protests came to Ithaca.
An estimated 200 people showed up to protest what many identified as the source of America’s economic problems: corporate greed on Wall Street.
“A tiny slice of the population has all the power,” said Wayne Gustafson ’66, who participated in Wednesday’s protest.
“[I am] tired of the, ‘I’ve got mine, you didn’t get yours, too bad’ attitude,” Gustafson said.
Dan Lamb, a district representative for Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.), attended the rally and expressed support for the protest.
“This is a really positive movement,” Lamb said, arguing that the protests could hold Wall Street responsible for its recent actions. “The outcome of this battle is going to affect the job market. We need to engage.”
Although the Tompkins County Workers’ Center helped mobilize support for the effort, many of the protest’s attendees said the event was a spontaneous response to similar protests elsewhere in the United States.
The Occupy Wall Street movement, which started as a grassroots protest in New York City, has spread to dozens of cities, including Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles, according to The New York Times. In what some have called America’s Arab Spring, thousands have turned out to protest and hundreds have been arrested.
In Ithaca, protesters stood at the intersection of North Tioga and East Seneca Street Wednesday afternoon, holding signs and chanting anti-corporate and anti-Wall Street slogans. Between chants, a microphone was offered to individuals to state their positions.
“There’s never been a strong economy without a strong middle class,” said Cathy Valentino, former supervisor for the Town of Ithaca. “We are the real Americans of this country.”
When pressed for their demands, the protesters mostly called for the restoration of the middle class against the perceived excesses of Wall Street.
Pam Gueldner, co-owner of Manndible Cafe, handed out signs and encouraged people to get involved.
“I’m not a millionaire, I’m not a billionaire, but I count, too. That’s what a democracy is all about,” Gueldner said.
She added that students also have a role to the play in the protests.
“Students need to recognize their power,” she said. “We are all in the same boat.”
Many protesters expressed frustration with not just the current economic situation, but capitalism in general.
“If you invest money and you fail, you lose it. That’s how capitalism is supposed to be,” said Harry Bowman M.S. ’97, referring to the government bailouts of big banks and other major corporations.
“When Wall Street fails, everything else does,” Bowman said. “That’s something that really hits the American people.”