The Occupy Galesburg movement is growing as members of the community gather to express grievances about social, political and economic issues.
On Saturday, Mike Nache, founder of the Occupy Galesburg movement, carried a sound horn in one hand and a sweeping American flag in the other as he led 20-30 people to march to occupy the corner of Henderson and Losey streets.
Over the course of the three-hour event, cars stopped at the intersection honked their horns in support of issues linked to the movement that spoke to their dissatisfaction with present-day living conditions.
“The first Occupy Galesburg event occurred on Oct. 17 and had no planning,” said Nache. “It was held at the Square for an hour, and we had no permit. In Galesburg, it is necessary to have a permit to assemble, so the police told us to disperse. Later on we got a parade permit.”
The next two events were on Oct. 30 and Nov. 5. The next march will situate participants on Henderson and Freemont Streets because “more people will be reached, it is located by Wells Fargo and the area has better acoustics,” Nache said.
While the Occupy Galesburg Movement cannot be traced to a single cause, analogous movements that have recently been spreading across the nation influenced Nache to organize Occupy Galesburg.
“I’ve been following protests since Sept. 17 in New York, then D.C., L.A., Chicago, San Francisco and even Iowa City. I could not wait for them to reach small towns,” Nache said. “I thought, if the Occupy Movement can [exist] in Iowa City, we can bring it here to Galesburg.”
Although Saturday’s Occupy Galesburg event mainly focused on protesting the disparity in average income between the wealthy and poor of America, the movement encompasses a plethora of meanings for different people.
The diversity of voices made it possible for the protest to cover a wide range of concerns. Previous protests associated with the movement have welcomed “professors from surrounding colleges, unemployed Galesburg residents, fast food workers, railroad workers, veterans, Progressives, Democrats, Republicans and a variety of high school and college students,” Nache said.
For Monmouth College Professor Petra Kuppinger, Occupy Galesburg is about “protecting peoples’ interests against big corporations that participate in a lot of lobbying to oppose things like putting more vegetables in school cafeterias.” Even though Kuppinger acknowledged that “school lunches are not at the center of the political landscape,” it is one of the “interests of ordinary people” that must be re-evaluated in the political arena.
Even a few homeless members of the Galesburg community participated in the most recent Occupy Galesburg event. While socioeconomic concerns were one such man’s primary worry, he was also worried about crime.
“When people hear about local gang activity, rape and skyrocketing crime, they should not accept it,” he said.
Major issues underlying the Occupy Movement nationwide include reforming the current United States Tax Code, providing all U.S. citizens with the opportunity to embrace Medicare, giving more power to the Environmental Protection Agency and designing an “immediate plan” to diminish national debt.
The national Occupy Movement calls for the development of a National General Assembly starting on July 4, 2012 in Philadelphia.
While efforts to establish an official Occupy Galesburg group in the community have not solidified and large-scale inconsistency in individual participation makes it difficult to organize an Occupy Galesburg group with an assigned set of leaders, the average turnout at each of the Occupy Galesburg events held over the last few months has been approximately 35 people.
“We haven’t gotten together outside of [formal events] to protest,” Nache said, but added that current levels of participation in Occupy Galesburg events indicate the potential for such a group to arise in the near future.