Protestors marched from the streets of downtown Bellingham to Maritime Heritage Park, Friday Oct. 28. Although the weather may have kept some from attending, according to the protestors, the Occupy Bellingham movement made a statement during its fourth gathering as it blocked traffic and chanted its way to the park where, for the first time, the demonstrators camped overnight.
Many of the protestors stayed to camp, despite the lack of a permit to do so. Permits to camp in the park are issued by the City of Bellingham Parks and Recreation Department. Although the permit did not allow marching on the street, police did not attempt to stop them, said Western student and Socialist Alternative member Greg Knight, who participated in the demonstration.
Ramy Kahlil, the president of Western’s chapter of Socialist Alternative, said the organization believes in fighting exploitation and injustice, and ultimately seeks to establish a democratic socialist society where the top 500 corporations would be publicly owned and democratically controlled by elected representatives of the workers and the broader public.
Protesters gathered again on Nov. 4 at 4 p.m. at Western and walked down to the park. A permit was granted to march, but the demonstrators did not apply for a permit to camp in the park, said Janice Keller, communications manager for the City of Bellingham.
Western student Kaia Gran attended Occupy Bellingham with Socialist Alternative. a group that seeks alternative ways of governing, and fights against the exploitation of injustices, according to the group’s website.
One of the main challenges of the movement in Bellingham is it isn’t comprised of an organized body of people, she said. It’s a mixture of ages, backgrounds and a variety of groups.
Gran said she estimated that more than 200 protestors attended the event. She said the demonstration was the weakest in terms of turnout since Occupy Bellingham began meeting. The second week had the most people in attendance, she said.
Although the demonstrators are not part of a uniformed organization, the protestors sent a clear message. They chanted together, “We are the 99 percent,” in unison during the march.
Signs with similar messages, reading, “Help America tax Wall Street,” and “Corporations are not people, money is not speech,” and “End corporate welfare,” were waived during the demonstration.
The Occupy Bellingham movement is part of the nationwide series of demonstrations that started in New York with the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators. These activists have camped out on Wall Street since Sept. 17 in an attempt to oppose the control the top one percent wealthiest people in the nation have over legislation, specifically targeting the bailouts of big business by the U.S. government.
The demonstration in Bellingham is connected to the Occupy Seattle movement, which has faced some obstacles, Knight said. Knight has helped organize the group’s efforts to participate in the demonstrations, and leads an ongoing rally of Western students who march from campus to downtown.
“I’m hoping [the demonstration] will encourage people to become concerned about the struggles in Seattle,” he said.
Knight said he hopes the movement will show solidarity with other movements and making people aware of the class struggle in the country.
“We are all in this together against the ruling class,” Knight said. “The 1 percent are the corporate executives, the billionaires, the people who can afford to purchase politicians.”
Knight said he thinks students should be concerned because the government’s priority in spending trillons of dollars on war and corporate bailouts are really to blame for cuts to education. The protestors’ chants of “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out,” echoed this concern for spending on corporate bailouts and a perceived fail in the priority of spending. Gran shares these concerns.
“I think the imperialism that exists under the capitalist system is not good for the people of the world,” Gran said.