MANATEE -- A dozen protests in the mold of Occupy Wall Street drew thousands across the state Saturday, including one in Bradenton’s McKelvery Park that drew roughly 55.
In the course of a month, the Occupy protests, which seem to focus on social inequality as much as corporate influence, have spread from New York to cities across the United States and around the world.
The Occupy Bradenton rally was held from 9 a.m. to about noon Saturday at the corner of Manatee Avenue West and 43rd Street West.
“I think it was a great response in Bradenton,” said local rally participant Robyn Davis, who later drove to Occupy Tampa. “It was interesting how many demographics were represented, including older people, younger, all different ideologies.”
Davis said so many people showed up in Tampa that the city was trying to figure out if they could camp in a city park overnight despite statutes that ban such activity. Bay News 9 reported hundreds of protesters spent Saturday in Tampa’s Lykes Gaslight Park.
“This has gotten people who in the past may not have been out in the street to come out,” Davis added. “A majority of Americans feel they are not represented anymore.”
Occupy Bradenton is scheduled to meet again at 9 a.m. today at the same location corner of Manatee Avenue West and 43rd Street West.
About “90 percent” of passing motorists on Manatee Avenue West who responded Saturday were positive, Davis said.
Local participant Robin Cooper, a Manatee County resident, said he joined the rally because he believes “a few corporations are telling our politicians what do to and it’s not the people anymore.”
“We lined up along the street and people were still showing up when I left at noon,” Cooper said.
When asked to give concrete examples of their displeasure, Occupy Bradenton participants said that three years after the national financial crisis, the unemployment rate is still at the highest level since the Great Depression except for a short period in the early 1980s.
Saturday’s hastily called Bradenton rally was in response to an international day of rallies on Saturday, Davis said.
A previous Occupy Bradenton rally last Sunday drew about 100.
“I can’t speak for the entire Occupation movement, but one thing we are very united on is that there be an end of major corporate influence in government,” said Davis, who was never involved in a political cause until now. “This is about people all saying we want influence in government.”
Across the state
Events similar to Bradenton’s were being held both Friday and Saturday from Miami to Pensacola, according to The Associated Press.
In South Florida, more than 1,000 people showed up for Miami’s 1:30 p.m. rally, according to a police estimate, the Miami Herald reported on its website Saturday night. Another group would be at the federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, the AP reported.
In central Florida, Brook Hines was among the 1,500 who arrived Saturday morning for a march past banks in downtown Orlando.
“I felt like this was really helpful and about the most positive grass-roots activity I’ve seen in a long time,” the 25-year-old marketing and public relations employee told the AP. “I think that it’s not the same kind of protest, attitude or movement as we’ve seen in the past.”
Families, senior citizens and college students held signs that read: “Justice for the Poor” and “Veterans for Peace.”
Joe Navarro, 28, a college student, was among a large crowd that waved signs at the Old Capitol in Tallahassee on Friday chanting “We are the 99 percent” as passing cars honked.
“Everybody’s fed up,” he told the Tallahassee Democrat. “It’s that simple.”
Other students said they were angry about rising college costs and a lack of jobs.
State Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, waved an “Occupy Tallahassee” sign at the event. He said he wanted to show support for people “who are just tired of big business not looking out for the common man.”
Four protesters were arrested and charged with trespassing in Gainesville early Friday morning after the city park had closed, the Gainesville Sun reported
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686.