RALEIGH — Occupy Raleigh observed its anniversary with a small, but festive, gathering Saturday on the state Capitol grounds.
Dee Pickering of Angier, who described herself as “just an occupier,” said the crowd peaked at 57 soon after the three-hour event began at noon. By 2 p.m., it was down to about 30, but people steadily came and went as various Occupy veterans spoke their minds in front of Gov. Charles Aycock’s statue.
“This was a celebration,” Pickering said. “A party.”
Snacks and drinks filled a table in the shade, while, in a sunny spot nearby, plastic bins were filled with clothing and food donations for the homeless. Another table displayed a selection of “Why We Occupy” cards “exposing and opposing the corporate state” such as bank fraud, “corporate personhood” and the “two-party duopoly.”
Hundreds turned out for Occupy Raleigh’s first rally on Oct. 15, 2011. Police arrested 19 for second-degree trespass and about 200 camped overnight at the Capitol. Rallies continued for several months, and the movement still has a weekly “general assembly” each Saturday. Occupier Joshua D. Bradley of Raleigh said they still organize occasional demonstrations for particular causes, such as the war-suffering Syrian people.
“Occupy has lost its numbers, but its energy lives on,” said Jeremy Gilchrist of Carrboro, who said he was one of the original Occupy Raleigh planners. “It’s gone into some of these other movements like the (teachers’) strike in Chicago. ... That energy for people to stand up, though it may not be under the name ‘Occupy,’ it’s there. It was a launching point,” he said. “A few people can make some really dramatic changes.”
Saturday’s gathering was a mix of party and pep rally.
A Che Guevara poster reading “Happy birthday Occupy” and a banner with the Bank of America logo changed to “Bankrupting American” were placed to face down Fayetteville Street. Two police officers idly paced the sidewalk at a corner of Capitol Square, while speakers showed that their drive to change the status quo was passionate as ever.
“Our elected officials are not doing a good job representing the people,” Bradley said. “Both parties are controlled by corporations.”
Several remarked on the friendships that have grown out of the movement and the invigoration found in organizing for a common cause. “We were so successful as a country because we looked after each other,” said Michael Davitt of Raleigh. “Engagement, involvement, ownership – those are basic American values.”