April 18, 2012 - Ortonville- William Armstrong was curious about the Occupy movement so he decided to find and attend the nearest meeting.
Pam Belding talks about the Occupy movement during a meeting on April 15 at the Old Town Hall in Ortonville. Photo by Patrick McAbee. (click for larger version)
For the White Lake resident, that was the April 15 Occupy meeting in Ortonville. While environmental issues were his primary motivation for getting involved, he found a lot of discussion at the meeting about corporations that don't pay taxes.
"I thought it was very civil," said Armstrong, who graduated from Albion College last year with a bachelor's degree in biology and political science, but is currently unemployed. "There were a lot of people with personal experiences and things they wanted to say, but it was kept organized, even though a lot of people were angry at corporations not paying taxes or getting rebates so they pay negative taxes."
Armstrong said a video shown at the meeting laid out the history of reforms put in place following the Great Depression and how those reforms have been weakened over the years. He also saw a specific list of banks, oil companies and other corporations that he said pay no taxes or negative taxes.
Pam Belding, a Brandon Township resident who organized the event, said the meeting went well, with 32 people in attendance. Besides viewing the half-hour video, she said individuals also talked about who they are, where they are, what they are looking forward to, and how they will get there.
Belding said one of the women who attended shared a story in which she said a major bank had suggested she put down her two dogs to avoid the costs associated with them so that she could instead make her mortgage payment. Another woman shared how she and her family owned a business for many years, but in the past few years have lost their business, their home, and have suffered complete economic devastation.
"Because of the economy, they couldn't get loans," Belding said. "Unless you have money, you can't get money. I've heard that over and over again. A few people at the meeting have been unemployed for quite a while and are having a hard time finding anything that will pay them a living wage."
Frustration with politicians, banks, corporations and the growing disparity in incomes drove Belding to join others with similar concerns at Occupy Detroit in October.
According to occupywallstreet.org, "Occupy Wall Street is a people-powered movement that began on Sept. 17, 2011 in Liberty Square in Manhattan's Financial District, and has spread to over 100 cities in the United States and actions in over 1,500 cities globally. OWS is fighting back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process, and the role of Wall Street in creating an economic collapse that has caused the greatest recession in generations. The movement is inspired by popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, and aims to expose how the richest 1 percent of people are writing the rules of an unfair global economy that is foreclosing on our future."
At the first local Occupy meeting April 15, Belding sent attendees home with a list of state representatives and senators and their contact phone numbers and e-mail addresses. The individuals at the meeting may be frustrated, she said, but they are not without hope.
"They wanted to feel they had a place to share their energy and a place to go with like-minded people to restore the economy and morale of the country," she said. "What we can do is stand up for ourselves and believe in ourselves and the value of what we do and who we are."
The next Occupy Ortonville meeting is planned for 10 a.m., April 29 at the Old Town Hall at the corner of Mill and Church streets in the village.
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Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville