The occupancy didn’t last, but protests continue. Entering its second week, the Occupy La Crosse movement showed a small but vocal presence Saturday when about a dozen people assembled in Cameron Park to echo nationwide outcries against inequity, political corruption and war.
“This is a new type of occupancy, more suited for smaller towns,” said Levi Johnson, a self-described freelance community organizer who has been at the heart of the Occupy La Crosse movement.
Protesters had planned to stay in the park through the end of the month. Johnson said about 10 people stayed the first night but opted for daily demonstrations after police warned them they would be cited for being in the park after 11 p.m.
Johnson said police were respectful and the group wasn’t seeking conflict.
“We’re fighting for them, too,” he said.
On Saturday, Johnson, 23, and three fellow protesters piled into a car with plans to drive to New York and join those who have been protesting on Wall Street since Sept. 17. He planned to be gone for about two weeks and was hopeful the La Crosse movement would continue.
Mark Zuby, a retired park superintendent from Mason City, Iowa, was in town to visit his daughter and stopped by. He said he hadn’t protested anything since the Vietnam War but had taken part in anti-Wall Street demonstrations in his home town over the past two weeks out of frustration with the influence of money on American politics.
Obbie King and Rosie Brooks showed up “to show solidarity.” Though a veteran of other protests, King said this was their first appearance at the occupy movement.
“We call ourselves slacktivists,” he joked.
King, 56, said he wanted to protest a system that has broken the American social compact.
“People work hard, play by the rules and then are pushed down into poverty,” he said. “Pensions are stolen, health care gets cut.”
Motorists along Fourth Street gave an occasional honk of support.
One man pulled over.
“I’ll join you guys later,” he said. “When are you going to be here?”
Not everyone was so supportive.
“Parasites!” yelled one driver.
The movement, which lacks formal organization, has been criticized for not clearly articulating goals.
King described it as a “Howard Beale” moment, referencing the satirical 1976 film “Network” in which Beale’s character encourages people to yell out the window “We’re mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it.”
“Hopefully, a plan will gel from that,” King said.
Bobby Erickson held a sign that urged an end to the Federal Reserve and war. He said he hoped to raise awareness of the Fed and how its actions inflate currency value and hurt poor people. He also wants people on Nov. 5 to take their money out of for-profit banks and move it to local credit unions.
Dae Miles complained about the lack of a cohesive message. On one side his sign read, “No Monopoly.” On the other, “Alaska oil Dividend example — share the land.”
Miles, a perennial third-party candidate in Fairbanks, Ala., who returned to La Crosse several years ago, said the movement has pieces of the right message but has fallen short.
He wants taxes on land and resources — not labor.
Even shifting property tax from buildings to land would promote development and end land speculation, he said. “People would only buy land when they needed to use it.”