by Monica Gallegos | Staff Writer |
Rain and chilly weather didn’t stop the first assembly of Occupy San Bernardino in downtown San Bernardino on Nov. 17.
There was an estimated 40 protesters in attendance for the first occupation. The protesters consisted of all ages, including children. They marched around the Bank of America and Wells Fargo on North D Street chanting, “Banks got bail out, we got sold out.”
“We are encouraging people to pull out their money from big banks and take their business to smaller and local institutions,” said protester Larry Garcia.
“We are protesting big banks and the irresponsibility of the government,” Garcia added. According to protesters, this was the first of many more occupations to take place in San Bernardino and facilitators believed it started off well.
“It’s been good today, peaceful and none of the banks or cops have given us any trouble,” said Hector Guzman, a facilitator of Occupy San Bernardino.
“We hope to get more support today and to raise awareness of how San Bernardino has been screwed over,” said Guzman.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, San Bernardino has reached an unemployment rate of 13 percent, and protesters believe that is why there needs to be an occupation.
An anomyous protester explained that San Bernardino is one of the poorest cities with the highest unemployment rates, and the numbers show in the voter turnout.
“Because we are the poorest, not everyone gets out and votes. We had a 16 percent vote last city election,” the protester further stated.
However, Occupy San Bernardino believes that it is the government’s fault that minimal citizens come to vote in elections.
The city does not put enough polls out, especially in the downtown, poorer areas according to protesters, and that is why lower class citizens aren’t able to have their opinions heard.
Among the citizens of San Bernardino were some protesters from other occupations in the Inland Empire to help get Occupy San Bernardino started.
“We have a few people from Occupy Redlands here with us to give their support,” said Guzman.
“This is our launch today, to get people interested and hopefully after today we’ll get more people to sign up and come together,” said an anonymous protester.
In their first general assembly, the protesters expressed ambitions of holding more occupations in San Bernardino for as long as it takes. General assemblies are the meetings during the occupations to decide on the next action for the protesters.
“It’s not going to happen over night,” said an anonymous protester, “but we’re going to stay until something is done.”
However, not all citizens in San Bernardino are on board with Occupy San Bernardino and don’t comprehend the reasoning behind the protests.
“I’m still not understanding what they are protesting,” said Rodrigo Rodriguez, a San Bernardino Valley College student and San Bernardino citizen.
“I think that one topic needs to be picked and stick to it, because it’s just confusing,” Rodriguez added.
Despite doubts coming from observers, the protesters claim to have a peaceful environment, and allow all voices be heard in the general assemblies.
“We are the 99 percent, we aren’t here to cause trouble, this is a peaceful protest,” said Garcia.