BANGOR, Maine — They came, they occupied, and then they left.
About 60 people, most with homemade signs, assembled Wednesday in front of the Bank of America building on Exchange Street to protest what they view as corporate greed and excessive individual wealth, among other things, in an hourlong Occupy Bangor rally.
“My family is middle class, all my friends are middle class, and I think it’s unfair that this gap between rich and poor is still growing,” said Margaret Hoyt, a first-time protest attendee from St. George and 20-year-old junior environmental science and ecology major at the University of Maine. “There’s really no middle class anymore.”
The event sprouted from similar ones organized by the Occupy Together and Occupy Wall Street groups.
“I support Occupy Wall Street, from what I understand of the movement,” said Earl Boyd, 65, of Canaan, a registered nurse who has been out of work for two months and is now drawing Social Security. “There are other things here about not cutting Social Security and Medicare, corporate greed, and spending money on war overseas.”
Posters ranged from extreme (“Take a bite out of crime. Eat a banker”) to short and sweet (“Tax the rich”) to quizzical (“Seriously? You didn’t think this day was coming?”) to repeated (“Honk if you are one of the 99 percent”).
“The 99 percent refers to those folks who are eking out a living and don’t have big wads of bills in their pockets,” said Boyd. “The 1 percent refers to those who are very wealthy and make more than a million dollars in a year.”
Fellow retiree Frank Donnelly of Lamoine has a Bank of America credit card account but still elected to come to the rally. He was reliving some old memories a year after being imprisoned for not paying his taxes.
“Forty-one years ago, I was in a protest in front of a Bank of America in California,” said Donnelly, a retired seafood broker. “I was sentenced June 14 last year to a year and a day for war tax resistance and that equated to 10½ months. I served 4½ in prison and another 5½ at a halfway house on Grant Street in Portland. Right now I’m on probation.”
Donnelly protests U.S. military action in Afghanistan and Iraq each Sunday on the bridge over the Union River in Ellsworth, but elected not to hold a sign Wednesday. He isn’t as hostile toward wealthy Americans or corporations as some at the rally were.
“I don’t hate the wealthy 1 percent. It’s just that they need to share the wealth,” said Donnelly, who has friends who are millionaires. “They’re not the wealthy I’m talking about. The ones I’m protesting are people who are multimillionaires or the multimillion corporations.”
Boyd, who was holding a “Honk…” sign, blamed Republicans for economic ills.
“Everybody gives back, except, it seems, the Republican Party, which just wants this country to fail as long as we have our current president,” he said. “That’s how it seems when I watch the news every night.”
Hoyt disagreed, saying politicians and members of both parties are to blame.
“It really isn’t political because both Democrats and Republicans have caused some of these problems we’re protesting against,” she said. “I honestly don’t know that much about taxes, but I know there needs to be more regulation on big banks, and I think there has to be more accountability for our government.”
The protesters did not block the entrances to the Bank of America bank lobby or offices, and employees said business did not seem to be noticeably affected.
“This is not an isolated incident, but with regard to that protest, there were no disruptions to our business operations,” Bank of America spokesman T.J. Crawford said from New York City. “They stayed outside on public property. We’d only intervene if their actions were impeding customers from doing business or if they were creating an unsafe situation.”
Bank of America’s presence in the building is limited to the bank on the ground floor.