About 250 people turned out for this weekend’s “Occupy Buffalo” protest in western New York.
The gathering piggybacked on New York City’s Occupy Wall Street movement and featured a similar hodgepodge of demands and frustrations expressed by the crowd.
A lack of focus – but a uniting ‘anger’
A megaphone was passed around like a talking stick. Elaborate costumes, props and signs called for action on anything and everything from corporate greed and global warming, to the upcoming election for Erie County executive. The assembly echoed statements made in the middle of an impromptu circle, so all could hear, as shown in this video.
Votes on the direction of Occupy Buffalo protest were held, with a majority declared after a show of hands.
The end result: “Occupy Buffalo will occupy Niagara Square right here. During the daylight hours in perpetuity. Starting today,” the crowd roared in a call-and-response pattern.
While “Occupy Buffalo” lacks a central focus so far, says Frank Levoy, the organization remains united around a sense of displeasure with the current state of affairs, be the issues international or local.
“Anger is like a tornado. It can do a lot of destruction. But occasionally it can trim the overgrowth,” says Levoy, who rode a bicycle outfitted to resemble the shape of a buffalo in camouflage. He casually rode around the perimeter of the protest, wearing a deer skin cap.
Lifting all boats
Occupy Wall Street in New York City has seized a message of inequality between the rich and poor, and held demonstrations in front of international banks and centers of global finance. Yet Buffalo lacks institutions of the same caliber, leading to questions of how effective a weekend protest in the middle of a unpopulated downtown would be in catalyzing the undefined change the demonstrations called for.
To start, locals need to find their own symbology to rally around, says Tricia Powers, of Sanborne in Niagara County.
“We’re standing in front of Buffalo City Hall that was constructed in the middle of the Depression because of the Work Progress Administration. They took people who were out of work and put them to work. That’s its legacy for us. We should be able to do that today,” she says. “But instead, Wall Street, or the people who are supposed to represent us in government, they are ... hanging onto this money that could employ people and lift all boats.”
On Sunday, a day after the larger gathering, only a handful of protestors remained in Niagara Square. They’re occupying in shifts, they said, while sparse honks from weekend traffic occasionally acknowledged their effort.
Tents have been pitched and pledges have been made to remain in place for an undisclosed amount of time - perhaps until their still-unexpressed demands are met.
Meanwhile, Occupy Wall Street is entering its fourth week with tens of thousands rallying daily in downtown Manhattan.