Over 200 ‘Occupy Anchorage’

More than 200 Alaskans spent a good part of their Saturday afternoon and early evening in downtown Anchorage’s Town Square, showing solidarity for the Occupy Wall street gatherings that are ongoing around the country. The Occupy Anchorage demonstration started when Anchorage resident Brian Macmillan came back to town after working as a carpenter all summer at Kenicott and caught up on the news of the national protests. Macmillan says money has too much influence in politics.

“And we don’t have any, so I guess this is us trying to find our voice, to have our grievances addressed, trying to show solidarity for the folks that have lost their homes and been foreclosed upon and the one in ten who are out of work currently in this country. Even the ones that have gone back to work, who are now working part time and making service industry wage, not manufacturing wages. So, it’s all these things,” Macmillan said.

And many others based on the signs and the frustration in the voices of those attending. Some were speaking out against corporate influence and war spending. Jed Whittaker took the microphone and said the government does not represent the average person.

“Are we going to continue to be slaves to the corporations and bail out the banks and the corruption that goes on in this country? No. I heard a no but I want to hear more nos! NO! We need to stand up and elect people to congress who are going to say, if we do not declare war, we will not fund war,” Whittaker said.

Others were concerned about the lack of adequate health care for many Americans. Tom Maccia works in the health care field and he said in the past he was in favor of a single payer health system.

“Now, thinking of it and looking at it, I’m in favor of socialized medicine. I worked for a long while in the Native system here. Perfect example of a wonderfully working and functional and getting better all the time, socialized medical system. And people aren’t paying attention, they’re not seeing that we’ve got a great example in this state of how socialized medicine can work,” Maccia said.

Peter, who only gave his first name, was attending the rally with his nephew. He said he is a psychiatric nurse practitioner who works with the mentally ill. He says he votes in every election and believes deeply in democracy, but he says the system is broken and just voting isn’t enough.

“And it’s a deep sadness for me and an anger because something has to be done. Obviously voting isn’t enough. Both parties are guilty because both parties are influenced by the really wealthy and the voice of the dispossessed isn’t here,” Peter said.

Peter’s 25-year-old nephew Cameron Kohls said he wanted to dispel what he says is misinformation about the occupy gatherings. He says those attending aren’t Marxists or Communists.

“I think capitalism has a lot of benefits but we need to have regulation built in. Runaway capitalism is obviously not the best when the 99 percent of us are at the bottom of the income scale and 1 percent control a good portion of the entire GDP. That’s ah, that’s not acceptable,” Kohls said.

The gathering started before 3:00pm and was breaking up about 7:30 in the evening as a man walked through those packing up food, instruments, sign-up sheets and banners. He brought a warning that Mayor Dan Sullivan had announced anyone camping in the square overnight would be arrested.

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Lori Townsend is the News Director for the Alaska Public Radio Network. She got her start in broadcasting at the age of 11 as the park announcer of the fast pitch baseball games in Deer Park, Wisconsin. She has worked in print and broadcast journalism for more than 24 years. She was the co-founder and former Editor of Northern Aspects, a magazine featuring northern Wisconsin writers and artists. She worked for 7 years at tribal station WOJB on the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibway Reservation in Wisconsin, first as an on-air programmer and special projects producer and eventually News Director. In 1997 she co-hosted a continuing Saturday afternoon public affairs talk program on station KSTP in St. Paul, Minnesota. Radio brought her to Alaska where she worked as a broadcast trainer for Native fellowship students at Koahnic Broadcasting. Following her work there, she helped co-found the non-profit broadcast company Native Voice Communications. NVC created the award-winning Independent Native News as well as producing many other documentaries and productions. Townsend was NVC’s technical trainer and assistant producer of INN. Through her freelance work, she has produced news and feature stories nationally and internationally for Independent Native News, National Native News, NPR , Pacifica, Monitor Radio, Radio Netherlands and AIROS. Her print work and interviews have been published in News from Indian Country, Yakama Nation Review and other publications. Ms. Townsend has also worked as a broadcast trainer for the Native American Journalist’s Association and with NPR’s Doug Mitchell and as a freelance editor. Townsend is the recipient of numerous awards for her work from the Alaska Press Club, the Native American Journalists Association and a gold and a silver reel award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. Townsend was the recipient of a Fellowship at the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting in Rhode Island as well as a fellowship at the Knight Digital Media Center in Berkeley. She is an avid reader, a rabid gardener and counts water skiing, training horses, diving and a welding certification among her past and current interests. ltownsend (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8452 | About Lori