BRADENTON -- Demonstrators gathered at a Bradenton intersection Sunday morning to protest against economic and other disparities they see in American society and in their own pocketbooks.
By about 9:45 a.m., about 100 people of all ages and backgrounds were lined up along Manatee Avenue West at the intersection with 43rd Street, waving signs, shouting slogans and sharing with each other why they were braving threatening weather to try to “Occupy Bradenton.”
“We’re just tired of the inequality in the financial system, in the tax system ... in the health care system,” said Keith Krusch, 35, a maintenance man in Bradenton. “We want other people to know there are people who feel like you.”
Krusch said he and his wife can only afford to live with his in-laws.
“Both of us are working, and we can’t get ahead.”
Echoing one of the most common slogans of the nascent movement, Manatee County government worker Mike Mahoney, 59, said he was at the protest “to bring attention to the fact that 1 percent of the country controls 40 percent of the money in the U.S.
“Ninety-nine percent have to split the rest,” Mahoney said.
The 1 percent, and those in the political system who do their bidding, need to be held accountable, said Arif Abdulla, 43, of Bradenton, who was at the rally with his 8-month-old twins, Ryan and Reagan.
“It’s about people waking up to the realities that some people have gotten off at the expense of others,” Abdulla said.
The Bradenton rally was a loosely organized demonstration, if that, modeled on other similar “Occupy” protests in New York and other cities across the nation. No one was sure whether whoever announced the protest on a Facebook page was even there.
But the attendees didn’t need such a guiding hand to get organized. After a brief meeting, they took their positions along Manatee Avenue West in front of Jessie P. Miller Elementary School or on the other three corners of the intersection with 43rd Street West.
The protest was absent the street theater found in some of the other demonstrations, just sign waving and slogan chanting, punctuated by the horns of many passing motorists.
Bradenton police officers were monitoring the demonstration for potential trouble.
The only testiness early on came when one motorist rolled down his window and jeered, “Get a life, you bums!”
Without hesitation, demonstrator Frank Dellert, 76, responded, “Get educated, get educated!”
Dellert, a veteran anti-war protester, said he was heartened to see young people turn out for the protest, and that it did not bother him if the “Occupy” movement doesn’t yet have a set of defined goals or objectives.
“You can be for women’s rights, you can be for peace,” Dellert said. “You can be against anything and be part of this organization.”
Dellert said he hopes the effort leads to a change in the political system so that monied interests no longer prevail.
“We have a plutocracy, not a democracy,” he said.
By noon, there were only about a dozen protesters at the intersection.