Holding her makeshift sign made from a manila envelope and marker, Stella Weatherly of Aurora was one of about 30 people participating in the Occupy Naperville protest Saturday morning.
Weatherly’s sign, she admitted, was done very last minute. Weatherly had been following the Occupy Chicago protests, even spending time at the protests in the city. She decided to participate in the Naperville event.
“I’m tired of corporation taking all of our money, basically,” she said. “It’s about time people woke up and realized what is happening in this country.”
Occupy Naperville announced Thursday night it would be gathering Saturday at the corner of Washington Street and Ogden Avenue, marching south along Washington Street and making its way to a gathering point at the intersection of Main Street and Jefferson Avenue in downtown . Though only a small group met to plan the protest, organizers were pleased with the much larger turnout.
The overriding message from the people who came out to protest was that power needs to be returned to the people and that corporations hold too much sway with Congress, the president and politicians.
Chris Romy, a Lisle resident, said she became involved in the movement after learning about the Supreme Court ruling from 2010 that allows a corporation to donate unlimited funds, including undisclosed funding, to anyone it wants.
“I’m here to spread that word,” Romy said. “We thought lobbying was bad before, this is obscene.”
A small group of people gathered at about 10 a.m. on the sidewalk near the PNC Bank. The number of protesters began to build and about 30 people were in attendance as they headed downtown. Participants ranged from families with children to senior citizens, teens to those who were in their 20s.
Wheaton resident Guy Rosenthal said he thought it was a good idea to participate in the protest “to come out and speak our piece."
“I’m a pretty middle of the road political person,” he said. “When did banks get away from the traditional role of keeping money flowing? And, now they are siphoning money from the people. … You can’t legislate morality and banks have gotten away from their very ethical and moral role in our economy.”
The group carried signs with a variety of slogans, such as “a corporation is not a person,” “stop screwing us” and “we are the 99 percent.” Many drivers passing by showed support by honking and giving protesters the thumbs up.
Evelyn Thompson, of Naperville, helped organize the protest. She said she was pleased the group was getting more positive reaction from drivers than negative.
The evolution of the protest was organic, Thompson said. She was tired of watching protests happen in the city and decided to take action to bring the protests closer to home. What was an idea on Monday became a protest by Saturday.
Occupy Naperville participants have said they plan to continue the protests every Saturday until corporate dominance of the government ends.
Occupy Chicago and Occupy Naperville are offshoots of the Occupy Wall Street protest, which began in mid-September with demonstrations and occupation of Zuccotti Park in the Wall Street District of New York City. The occupation is meant to highlight corporate influence on democracy. The protest catch phrase is “We are the 99 percent.”
Steve Alesch, a Warrenville resident and Warrenville Park District trustee, said Naperville was chosen as the location for the protest in part because of the size of the community and the visibility the group would have downtown. Naperville, he said, is a good representative of “any city USA.”
The protest, though, is more than a right or left issue, he said.
“It is completely a bipartisan problem in Congress,” Alesch said. “There are these two parties that are dominated by corporations. … We, the people, are losing control of the government.”
While marching to downtown Naperville, the group encountered more horn honking. Once in downtown, at least one driver yelled at the group, “Get a job you [expletive].” But the group was not discouraged and laughed off the criticism. Many shoppers downtown watched, some seemed confused about what was happening, while others driving or passing by offered cheers and honks of supports.
While downtown, Alesch and others spoke again, taking turns sharing their thoughts. Participants had their individual reasons for participating, but the underlying theme was people need to control the government, not corporations.
“Corporations are necessary and small businesses are important,” Alesch said, “but we don’t want corporations to dominate our government. People should dominate our government.”