Saturday night on the Statehouse grounds, about 200 people from “Occupy Columbia” slept in sleeping bags or stayed up talking. They gathered as an offshoot of the “Occupy Wall Street” protest movement that is peppering the U.S. –but with people who are rooted in the Midlands.
At the Statehouse Sunday, we talked to people from Columbia, Swansea and Winnsboro. A group had traveled up from Charleston the day before to offer support. Cars honked often on Columbia’s busy Gervais and Main Street intersection, prompting cheers from the group.
Some of the scene seemed like a return to the 1960’s, especially the sign-toting and chanting. Yet, with the addition of a makeshift media center, with laptops, video cameras and solar-powered cell phone recharging station, and it is clear that this is a series of events spurred by social networking— a flash mob with a sense of purpose.
That purpose is to bring attention to the frustrations of the middle class, the jobless, the people who believe that money speaks louder than the voter in all political decisions.
So, “occupations” like this follow a format that attempts to engage everyone who is interested. Will Urquhart runs the media area and calls people together throughout the day for “general assemblies.”
AUDIO: Tech leader explains the tech role in their protests, meetings (1:20)
One of the organizers, Travis Bland, says Facebook pages began to connect like-minded people in Columbia. He works part-time in Columbia’s Vista.
AUDIO: Bland on getting started (:58)
One of the older participants was Keith Mosher, a computer programmer who has lived in Columbia for 40 years. He said that being in the public with other frustrated people, is real Democracy in action:
AUDIO: Mosher on similarities with Occupy and the Tea Party (2:13)
Whatever the reasons that drew the different participants together, no one we spoke with would even attempt to say when they would disperse. For them, that creates uncertainty, excitement and hope that the time spent may make some kind of difference.