PORTLAND — Some wanted bank executives arrested. Others wanted Medicare extended to all citizens, an end to war or a halt on foreclosures. Their demands were disparate, but they were unified in a frustration with the status quo and a feeling that a fortunate few are enjoying all the prosperity at the expense of everyone else.
The Occupy Wall Street movement came to Portland Thursday in a peaceful demonstration that began along the Willamette River, wound through the streets of Portland and concluded in Lownsdale Square, a park across the street from federal court.
“Everybody has different grievances, but we all feel the country is being lost,” said Frank Bader, 44, an unemployed former title examiner in the real estate industry. “I feel that my children’s country is being robbed by greed, by special interests.”
Police spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson said there were no arrests and estimated the crowd at “several thousand.” Organizers estimated there were as many as 10,000 demonstrators.
“Everyone’s been very welcoming and cooperative,” Simpson said.
Authorities closed off streets to make room for demonstrators as they took a circuitous route through the city’s economic core in the late afternoon hours. Demonstrators chanted, “We are the 99 percent,” and some tried to encourage spectators to join the parade.
“People want their voices to be heard. You get strength in numbers. I’ll be a number,” said Peter Kass, 26, who works in a residential treatment facility.
Demonstrators say on a website they are nonviolent, and they trained a group of volunteers to help de-escalate pressure-packed moments in hopes of avoiding violence.
The political and economic system is “sick,” said Sadie Scabarozi, 62, of Portland.
“It doesn’t serve the needs of all of us,” she said. “It’s really just serving the needs of a few wealthy people. Unless you’re a billionaire, no one really takes notice.”
Nate Smith, a high school senior from Portland, expressed similar feelings and said too much power is concentrated in the hands of selfish people.
“The banks aren’t bad. It’s the people that are running them,” he said. “There are too many greedy people, too many people who want more and more money in the banking system.”
Smith carried a handwritten cardboard sign that read, “Seventeen & no future.” He’s worried, he said, that he’ll never afford to buy a home or be able to find a job when he gets out of college.