ASHLAND — Inspired by the weeks-long Occupy Wall Street protest in New York's financial district, a small group of demonstrators Wednesday handed out pamphlets and waved signs in front of Ashland's Chase Bank.
Most of the group of about 15 people, calling for economic justice and an end to "crony capitalism" in the U.S., said they planned to participate in a similar two-day-long protest, which begins at 3 p.m. today in the Ashland Plaza.
"There are several issues that brought us out here, and we have a lot of demands," said Robbie Lindauer of Ashland, an organizer of the protest.
He said although the goals of Occupy Wall Street — and hundreds of other protests in conjunction with it around the nation — may be multi-faceted and ambitious, there is no better time than now to push for results.
"This is how it all starts," he said. "We have the numbers. We are the 99 percent."
Lindauer and many of the other protesters who started gathering at noon Wednesday said they planned to stand in front of the bank until its closing, in spite of a mostly rainy sky. As they protested, many passersby honked their car horns in apparent approval.
One sign being waved by the group read, "The banks are picking your leaders — Occupy Ashland." Another read, "Where is my bailout?" and "It's not a crisis, it's a scam."
"If you want your children to have a better life than you did, you have to change the way that our government handles economic injustice," Lindauer said. "Without justice for all, why even bother having a country."
More protesters are expected to gather today and Friday in the Ashland Plaza, where another demonstration in conjunction with the Occupy Wall Street protest will span two days.
Today, State Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, will open the protest with a speech at 3 p.m.
Organizers have scheduled presentations on a wide range of topics over both days, including: the Ashland Watershed and other environmental issues, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and economic exploitation.
Organizers did not return phone messages, but participants in the protest are being encouraged to sign a pledge, which reads; "I pledge that on October 6, 2011, I will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with my brothers and sisters around the world, who will be occupying parks, plazas and financial centers in opposition to the illegal occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq and the economic exploitation that plagues most of the world. Locally, we will occupy the downtown Plaza in Ashland, Oregon, to show our unity to create a better world. The 6th begins a new day in the United States and the world. The people will not stand silent any longer. The time has come to resist."
Ashland Police Chief Terry Holderness said he sat down with the protest organizers earlier this week and he doesn't expect any problems.
"It's my understanding that they plan to have a peaceful protest," he said. "We have a lot of protests in Ashland pretty regularly, and most of them go fairly well."
Protesters initially planned to camp out in Lithia Park, but Holderness said organizers agreed not to go forward with that plan.
"We explained the camping ordinance and they advised us that they were not going to be camping or breaking any laws," Holderness said. "If someone camps in Lithia, we would, of course, enforce the camping ordinance."
Today's protest will end with a two-hour general assembly starting at 7 p.m. in the Plaza. It will pick back up again Friday at 9 a.m. and continue until 9 p.m., again ending with a two-hour general assembly.
"I'm looking forward to what's going to happen in the next couple of days," said 55-year-old Melanie Mindlin of Ashland, who accepted a pamphlet from the protesters in front of Chase Bank Wednesday.
"I'm 100 percent behind this. Forget Washington, D.C., the problem is on Wall Street."
Reach Ashland Daily Tidings reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.