LAKE WORTH — The "Occupy" movement staged its first rally in Palm Beach County Saturday, drawing about 250 people, who addressed an array of concerns about today's society, most of which they say lead to one place - Wall Street.
Brenda Berish, 62, a retired teacher from Lake Worth, stood on the stage at Bryant Park discussing her concerns with other protesters.
"I'm here to support all Americans who feel that Wall Street, the banks and lobbyists have too much influence in Washington," she said. "We have to regulate Wall Street. They have shown they are not honest. They need some rules to follow."
Nearby stood Tom Holden, 74, of West Palm Beach holding a poster that said: "Keep Corporations out of Elections." His wife, Jane, 74, stood next to him with a companion sign: "Corporations are not people."
They said they were there to protest the 2010 Supreme Court decision that gave corporations and labor unions the right to fund broadcast ads for or against specific candidates in the days leading up to an election. That had previously been illegal.
"What the Supreme Court said was the corporations are people," said Tom Holden. "Well corporations aren't people. This is just a way to allow corporations to basically buy elections."
"There is a movement to amend the constitution that will reverse what was decided and say corporations are not people," said Jane Holden. "We support that movement."
Rob Gorman, 56, of Boca Raton, agreed.
"I think the one issue that unites the people here it is getting corporate money out of politics," he said. "We need to drain the swamp."
The Saturday event was organized by the group Occupy Lake Worth, but members of at least two other organizations, Occupy Palm Beach and Occupy Boca Raton, were also in attendance. The groups are an outgrowth of Occupy Wall Street, a gathering of protesters who have camped in a small park in Manhattan since mid-September to protest what they say is Wall Street corruption, too much influence by corporations in politics and the growing gap between the wealthy and the rest of the country.
On Wednesday, representatives of organized labor joined those protesters, creating a march of thousands of people, the first large demonstration of the Occupy movement.
Meanwhile Occupy groups have sprung up around the country. An Occupy Jacksonville protest Saturday drew 200 people, and 300 people held an Occupy Tampa protest on Friday. Other protests are being planned in Fort Myers, Pensacola, Miami and Fort Lauderdale.
Occupy Wall Street has issued a list of proposed demands that include: undoing last year's Supreme Court decision on campaign finance, limiting the influence of lobbyists in government, making the wealthy and corporations pay "their fair share" of taxes, and returning to previous banking laws that separated commercial banks from investment banks. Protesters interviewed Saturday in Lake Worth said they supported those demands.
Occupy Lake Worth has scheduled another rally for Saturday, Oct. 15, at 10 a.m.
While the Occupy Wall Street group was founded mostly by young people, Saturday's event in Lake Worth attracted many middle-aged and older citizens. World War II veterans Jack Walker, 85, and Eugene Nusbaum, 87, were among them, wearing their campaign caps designating them as vets.
"Wall Street is taking over and it's our own fault," said Walker. "People need to get out to vote."
Brenda Gallivan, 52, a paralegal from West Palm Beach, was also on hand.
"The corporate mentality is that the middle class has more than they need and the rich don't have enough," she said."Well, we're not going to take that anymore."
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