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Dallas Gets Occupied

Doubtless you've heard about Occupy Wall Street, the protests against corporate greed and Wall Street bailouts (among other things) that have been going on for the last three weeks in New York. The protesters call themselves "the other 99 percent" or just "The 99," and this morning in Pike Park off Harry Hines, around 500 locals massed to begin their own protest, Occupy Dallas, marching down to the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank on Pearl. Signs were plentiful: "This Revolution Will Not Be Privatized," "99 To One, Those Are Great Odds," "Health Insurance For All - Put Bankers Out On the Street" and "Hello Goliath, Meet David."

"It's so fucking great to see you all here!" shouted McKenzie Wainwright from the raised gazebo at one end of the park, where a few of the organizers were directing traffic. She's a slight red-haired 23-year-old barista, part of the People's Assembly of Dallas, a group of about 150 core organizers who began meeting to plan the demonstration.

"We're working with the police," Wainwright reminded the crowd. "They are helping us. We will help them. We will not start anything. Walk. Scream your chants. Hold signs. Tell them what you want. We will not instigate violence."

There were plenty of tie-dyed shirts, black band T-shirts, dreadlocks and skateboards in the crowd, and almost as many fanny packs, gray beards and starched khakis. Everybody clapped and cheered for not instigating violence, then again, a few moments later, when she reminded them to stay on the sidewalk during the march.

"We're here for a reason," Wainwright told the crowd. "Don't jeopardize that. Don't let anyone make a fool of you."

The biggest cheer came when she announced that members of the Transportation Workers Union and the Communications Workers Union were both in the audience. "Labor is here!" she declared.

Across the street, police officers were stationed in two parking lots, as well as all along the route between the park and the bank. "We're just going to make sure they have a safe demonstration," Sgt. Warren Mitchell, a public information officer, told Unfair Park. "We anticipate a safe demonstration."

We asked how many officers would be out. "We're not gonna tell you that," Mitchell said. He was nice about it.

Back across the street, Wainwright pointed out a hovering police helicopter to the crowd. "Do me a favor and give 'em a nice big wave, would you?" she asked the group. Everyone turned around and waved cheerily. A grandmotherly lady with a silver bun and white sneakers wandered by, waving a sign that read "Tax The Rich."

Down the marchers went, past police officers with their hands in their pockets and a group of guys standing at a loading dock, cigarettes suspended temporarily in midair as they watched the procession. As the protesters streamed across the street, an older man in a silver car, a Bluetooth headset in his ear, leaned hard on his car horn for a full two minutes as he gave everyone the finger, his face expressionless. Nearby, a kid on crutches hopped quickly along. One of his pant legs was empty. His sign read: "If I Can March On One Leg, Why Can't You?"

The man was Cameron Wilson, 24, who lost his leg three months ago in a car accident. "I can't get on disability," he explained. "Social Security denied me because I'm too young." He was marching, he said, against corporate greed, privatization and "secrecy."

Robin Taubenfeld marched dressed as a clown, complete with a bright wig and a red nose. She pushed her daughter Moonbeam in a stroller in front of her, who wore a tutu and purple Dora the Explorer pajamas.

"War is ridiculous," Taubenfeld said, explaining her outfit. "Economic injustice is ridiculous." Plus, she said, costumes are an excellent way to show "that the movement for social change is family friendly, peaceful, vibrant and creative. This is the children's future we're fighting for."

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Anna Merlan
Contact: Anna Merlan