NEWPORT – A cold wind coming off Lake Memphremagog whipped through a pup tent at the Emory Hebard State Office Building on Saturday.
Meanwhile, a group of demonstrators held signs and banged on drums as motorists passed by the busy intersection of Main and Coventry streets.
This Saturday marked the three-month anniversary of the founding of Occupy Wall Street in New York City. Demonstrations, marches and parties are being held around the country by members of the Occupy movement.
The demonstrators, who call themselves the 99 Percent, are against corporate greed. The group meets at the state office building every Saturday to send the message that they are part of the 99 percent of the population who are struggling for justice in America and around the world.
The tent resembled what many people may soon call home, Pam Ladds of Newport City said. She explained that people are being evicted from where they live and banks are foreclosing on many homes. "It’s really sad,” Ladds said.
The group is also against cuts for heating assistance (LiHEAP), especially during a time when there are few jobs and the jobs that do exist pay low wages. Newport City Resident Pam Ruigh said each eligible family would only receive around $400 for the winter season.
“It cost me $400 for one month,” she said. “I can afford it, but there are many elderly people who are going to freeze to death.”
Ruigh said she was protesting for the elderly who get $600 to $800 month in Social Security and have to decide to buy heat, food or medicine. “A country is as good as it takes care of its weakest,” said Ruigh.
The United States spent a lot of money on a war that didn’t get it anywhere, Ruigh said. She also said Congress likes to spend money on projects outside the United States while the infrastructure in the United States continues to deteriorate. “We’ve become a third world country and the third world countries have become first world countries,” she said.
“It’s appalling what’s happening,” Ladds said. “We’re here to draw attention to that. We can fight back and the way to fight back is that there so many more of us than there of them."
A Newport resident, who identified himself as Randy, was going by, saw the demonstrators and got curious. He said he stopped and someone handed him a sign.
The country has problems and neither political party has done anything to solve them, Randy said. “We had eight years of Bush and everyone generally agrees that was a disaster of a presidency,” Randy said. “Three years of Obama has not improved anything.”
In Randy’s eyes, the economy works well for the wealthy for corporations but does not work well for the average Americans and neither party seems to address it.
The country’s Bill of Rights is evaporating, Randy said. “Our liberal president is about to sign a bill that would allow indefinite detention of Americans,” Randy said, “When I was a college student, that was the definition of a police state. We have a choice of between what Helen Keller called Twiddle Dum and Twiddle Dee,” he said. “We have a choice between Republicans and Democrats and, from my prospective, at the national level, nothing is being done.”
The group plans to hold their weekly 30-minute demonstrations for as long as necessary. After the demonstration, the group usually meets somewhere else where community members have a chance to speak out the situation.