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Occupy at Bank of America

Richard Duchesneau carries an Occupy sign on M-15. Photo by Mary Keck (click for larger version)
May 23, 2012 - With signs declaring, "We are the 99%" and "'Bad' for America," Occupiers gathered in front of Bank of America on Ortonville Road, May 9.

Demonstrator Pam Belding of Ortonville said Bank of America is "one of the leaders of the foreclosures in this country. The 99 percent wants Bank of America to help people avoid foreclosure. They haven't paid their taxes in three years; I'm proud to pay mine."

The activists from Ortonville came to Independence Township to be a part of a nation-wide protest centering on an annual shareholders meeting taking place at Bank of America's corporate headquarters in Charlotte, N.C., where approximately 1,000 protestors demonstrated on the same day. According to the Occupy website they gathered, "to build pressure on the big banks to do more to strengthen—not pillage—the economy. We need an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthiest one percent."

Unlike their supporters in Charlotte, Occupy Ortonville protesters didn't have sunshine. Instead, the 12 who gathered stood in the rain as "well over 8,000 cars drove past," Belding said. "We had lots of people honk and wave in solidarity."

Belding hadn't ever joined a protest movement before helping to organize Occupy Ortonville last month.

"I'm not going to wait for someone else to come along and fix the problems in this country. Hard work is not enough anymore. The system is broken, and everyone is affected," he said.

Other activists holding signs in the rain echoed Belding's perspective.

"For the last 30 years, it seems like the top one percent are getting richer and richer while the 99 percent are struggling," Holly Resident Sherlynn Everly said. "We're supposed to be a democracy, but we look like a plutocracy. The rich elites influence the decisions at the top level."

In response to the common criticism that occupiers should get a job, Everly explained, "I worked for the state of Michigan for 20 years. I paid my dues. My 401K and retirement plan haven't grown as much as the wealth of those who manage it. I have a problem with people making so much money for doing absolutely nothing."

Unlike Belding, Sherlynn Everly has a long history of activism. She joined thousands of women who marched in Washington D.C. in the 80s to support the Equal Rights Amendment. To Everly, the Occupy movement "is even more critical." Belding and Everly said the protest on May 9 wasn't the last time we'll see Occupy Ortonville.

Bank of America declined to comment on the protest. For more information, check occupyortonville.weebly.com.

Clarkston News reporter
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