BRUNSWICK, Maine — Protesters identifying themselves with the nationwide Occupy movement assembled in front of Bank of America’s Brunswick branch Saturday to continue what is now a months-long outcry against the gap between the rich and the rest of the population.
The Occupy movement here is different from other towns and cities where encampments of protesters have lived outside as the winter months take hold, but many of the people in Saturday’s protest said their message is the same.
“I’m here because I think there is a really important statement being made,” said Louise Sharp of Bath. “It seems like all the systems we have today are focused on the bottom line, but I think lives are the bottom line. Forty-nine percent of our population lives in poverty.”
Though the Occupy movement has been criticized for its lack of a mission and fuzzy goals, the theme for many at the Brunswick event was crusading against corporations they say make rich profits on the backs of everyday Americans. To that end, some slogans are beginning to take hold.
One pedestrian not involved in Saturday’s protest earned a few cheers for himself when he yelled from across Maine Street, “the banks got bailouts. We just got cold out.”
Karen Johnson of Bath, who was one of the protesters, had another one: “I’ll know a corporation is a person when Texas executes one.”
She gestured to the downtown Brunswick homes around her and guessed what people inside were thinking.
“I think people in most of these houses agree with us, but they’re too afraid to come out and join us,” she said. “They’re silently cheering us because we’re out here doing something.”
A security guard at Bank of America’s doors said he had no comment for the press and that no one inside the bank did, either.
Timothy DeJaynes of Woolwich, a fisherman and carpenter who has been out of work for a year, said he never imagined he would become part of a protest like Saturday’s until he met one of the activists. The activist has been letting DeJaynes live in a camper on his property for the past several weeks. That’s DeJaynes’ plan for the coming winter.
“I believe what we’re doing here is good,” he said. “I only wish there were more people out here.”
Rosalie Paul of Georgetown, a regular on the activist circuit, said she is thankful that the movement is providing its members with a renewed sense of community, but her real hope is that the outcry is resonating with the rich and powerful.
“The fact that the leadership in this country is making policemen go after the encampments means that they’re concerned we’re having an impact,” said Paul of Occupy camps that have been broken up in other areas of the country, such as New York City.
Ricardo Zarate Jr., a junior at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, said he is one of the co-leaders of the Occupy movement on campus. He said many Bowdoin students have been engaged in the movement, if not by protesting then by having lively discussions in their classes.
“The movement demands recognition more than anything else,” said Zarate. “There are immense differences between the distribution of wealth in this country. I don’t think it’s fair that 99 percent of our society has to go through this when there are people making millions of dollars.”
Zarate Jr. said he and others at Bowdoin will host an “Occupy Teach-In” Friday at 4:15 p.m. in the college’s Smith Auditorium, which is located in Sills Hall. The event will include a question-and-answer session involving faculty members and students who have been involved in the movement.
“Everyone and anyone from the public is welcome,” he said.
Though many people going by Saturday’s protest beeped their horns or flashed a thumbs-up in solidarity, some said they were growing tired of the movement or confused about what it is trying to accomplish. John Campbell of Portland said he liked what he saw out of Occupy in the beginning but thinks it has lost its focus.
“Originally, the intentions and the idea were good,” he said. “Now I have no idea what the camps are all about. The whole cause has become sort of clouded.”
Campbell said that even though he can partially relate to what the protesters are trying to do, he fears the movement will help President Obama’s re-election chances in spite of what Campbell said were failings of the president that should anger the Occupy protesters.
“I’m sure the White House loves to see this,” he said.