A protest with roots in New York City made its way to Texas today. Protesters with Occupy Austin, an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street, gathered at City Hall to rally against corporate influence in the United States government.
The crowd started out small, but by 3 p.m., hundreds had gathered near the front steps of city hall. Some protesters carried signs expressing their distaste for corporate influence, and others took turns at the microphone.
“We are in massive debt, but nobody wants to do anything,” said protester Josué Ramirez.
A list of the group's demands recently appeared on its website, occupyaustin.org. The first is that government be responsible to those it represents, including ending "corporate personhood" and limiting lobbying and contributions to political campaigns.
“The political system is broken, because Wall Street has bought [politicians],” David Graeber, one of the original organizers of the Occupy Wall Street protest who also helped organize the Austin protest, said in a phone interview.
Another demand calls for reforms that prevent financial institutions from causing future economic crises and for strict repercussions for businesses and banks that have caused such crises.
The group's last demand calls for tax reforms to ensure that corporations and the wealthy pay their “fair share." Like Occupy Wall Street, the Austin group wants the federal government to reduce the income disparity between the richest Americans and everyone else.
No arrests were made in connection to the protest, said Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo.
Police presence, particularly on the tops of adjacent buildings, was a point of contention for some protesters, and several mentioned it when speaking to the crowd. Jared Barger, a veteran, said the police presence was a form of intimidation.
Acevedo said that the police presence was for the safety of those who were protesting peacefully.
“Our guys are on the look out, not for these protesters not for people who are here to exercise their rights, but for people who might be here to hurt others or insight a riot,” Acevedo said.
Occupy Austin is one of many protests that have occurred nationwide after Occupy Wall Street began Sept. 17 in New York City. Today, Occupy protests also began in Dallas and Houston.
The name Occupy refers to the group's intention to occupy the area in which it is protesting for an undetermined amount of time. The Occupy Wall Street protest is in its 19th day.
“We plan on occupying until our elected officials recognize that the people are the supremest authority and that they are there for our needs not the financial institutions or corporations,” said Lauren Welker, who is in charge of Occupy Austin’s media relations.