Fargo crowd rallies against social, economic inequality
FARGO About 150 people lined the sidewalks of downtown Fargo this afternoon in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement, rallying against what demonstrators call widespread social and economic inequality. Placards bearing slogans like "Mai...
About 150 people lined the sidewalks of downtown Fargo this afternoon in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement, rallying against what demonstrators call widespread social and economic inequality.
Placards bearing slogans like "Main St., Not Wall St.," "People Over Profits," and a simple "Mad As Hell" were prevalent in the crowd - a diverse group ranging from college students to working parents to retirees.
"It's just such an unbalanced situation," said Carlee O'Dell, a 58-year-old lab tech for the Department of Agriculture. "Pretty soon, there's not going to be a middle class."
Like most of the demonstrators, she heard about today's event - dubbed Occupy Fargo-Moorhead and timed to coincide with similar demonstrations worldwide - via friends and social media. She brought a homemade sign with messages on both sides. One read: "When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace."
The other was more pointed: "One day the poor will have nothing left to eat but the rich."
Jennifer Chalupnik, a 46-year-old North Dakota state government employee and mother of two, said she came to the protest because she saw the opportunity to forge a good middle-class life for a family by working hard - as her father did - disappearing. Now, she said, households with multiple incomes can barely make ends meet.
"What's next - we put our children to work to help out?" she said.
The demonstrators assembled in front of the US Bank Plaza (before the event, organizers said they were not targeting the bank itself; the location was simply convenient). Police taped off the plaza itself to keep demonstrators from spilling over onto private property, but the assembly was largely civil and without incident.
Across the street, a much smaller but perhaps equally vocal group of about a dozen counter-protesters - all Concordia College students, most with ties to politically conservative groups on campus - staged their own rally, with signs like "Occupy a Job."
Mark Besonen, 19, president of College Republicans at Concordia, said he and his colleagues see the demonstrations "as a cry for help" in a state with plenty of jobs available.
"We want both sides to be heard," said Besonen, "We don't want people to come out and just vilify the banks."
Kyle Hibbs, 21, another counter-protester, said the demonstrators' anger was misdirected. "It's not Wall Street and capitalism that's causing all of this," he said, instead saying overbearing government regulation was burdening the economy. "These people are mad at the wrong people."
Crystal Aakre, a 27-year-old graphic designer among the Occupy Fargo-Moorhead demonstrators, said jobs weren't the only issue - or even the primary issue - in the protest. Instead, she said, it's about broader economic power imbalances.
"I have a job," she said. "Often, I've had two jobs."
Her contribution to the rally: A poster-sized American flag made entirely of her student loan bills.
The article comes from The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, like the Herald a Forum Communications Co. newspaper.