The protests of Occupy Wall Street have inspired similar “occupations” in local areas such as Riverside, which have become known as Occupy Riverside.
Occupy Riverside is a part of the leaderless resistance movement, that consists of protesters staying at Main Street Mall on Main and University Streets in Riverside.
“We’re occupying our lives here, it’s not an invasion,” said protester James Williams. “We’re acting out against our government.”
This occupation is a branch of Occupy Wall Street, which began Sept. 17. It’s protesting social and economic inequality in America. Their slogan is
“We are the 99 percent,” referring to the difference of wealth between the top one percent and other citizens in the U.S.
Many that are protesting are unemployed and unhappy with the economy and their struggle to find work.
Occupy Riverside has been ongoing since Oct. 15 and started off with many protesters, but numbers have decreased during the work week.
“I’ve been here since Saturday,” said Williams. “There were about 300 people here when we started and 60 people slept here, but now we’re down to 20-30 people staying overnight,” he said.
“I’m not going to get discouraged though, we expect to keep growing,” said Williams.
Occupy Riverside is expected to be ongoing until Jan. 1, and holds general assembly meetings every night at 7 p.m.
“The general assembly is the core of this occupation,” said an anonymous protester. “It makes it a democracy and a people’s choice.”
According to the group of protesters, the occupation, thus far, has been peaceful and there have been few issues with the Riverside Police
Department and local businesses, however there have been tense moments.
“We did have some issues with the police, because our security team got a little paranoid, since everyone is running on empty here and we can’t have tents,” said Williams.
“[Police] woke us up early and said we had to go, but nothing happened as far as arrests,” said Williams.
Despite the issues with the police, those that decided to stay feel a sense of community with others involved.
“It was great how everyone just came together,” said Williams. “There were still different people willing and not willing to stay, but those who did stay came together.”
Among the protesters include college students that come when they are able to give their support for the cause in any way.
“I’ve been here since Monday off and on,” said Kelly Collins, a Riverside Community College student. “I handle the medical booth and offer people water and such, and the latest I’ve stayed was about 3 a.m.”
The residents of Riverside don’t seem to mind, according to the occupiers. Some have even donated to the cause rather than sitting in.
“We get a lot of people honking as they drive by,” said Collins, “We’ve even had some local businesses come by and donate things such as money and food.”
However, though the protesters feel encouraged with the support that has been given, they still feel that more support is vital.
“We need students to get involved,” said an anonymous protester, “They are the ones graduating in debt and unemployed, so they definitely need to be out here.”
Some protesters have started to worry if the peace of the occupation will continue once the city of Riverside starts to get impatient.
“I wonder what’s going to happen when police and businesses start to lose patience,” said Collins. “We already get some people walking by yelling ‘get a job.’”
“However we’ve been policing ourselves to keep the area clean and without disturbances,” said Collins.