Valley residents start an ‘Occupy Aspen’ movement

by Chad Abraham, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer

She was a “girly girl,” with lots of make-up and dolled-up hair and a large diamond on her finger, recalled Jeannie Perry.

Not exactly one who might at first glance be ready to take a position on wealth disparity. But during the first Occupy Aspen protest at Wagner Park on Monday, the woman surprised Perry, who is an organizer of the attempt to replicate locally the populist movement on Wall Street that has spread around the country.

“I said, ‘Write your grievance, put it on the board,’” Perry said. “She said, ‘Yeah,’ grabs a marker, writes ‘Tax private jet owners!!’ It was probably her ex, but whatever.”

So it went on the park’s south side during the protest, which had a few striking differences from its counterparts elsewhere. First there was the size: a handful here versus the throngs in Lower Manhattan protesting the lack of jobs, moneyed interests in politics and the income gap between CEOs and workers, among other complaints. There also was the difference of duration.

Asked if they were going to camp out the way thousands have done in New York City for nearly a month, Perry said the plan was to leave at 8 p.m., when the park closes.

“Eventually we would like to camp,” fellow organizer Lee Mulcahy chimed in.

“But we’re going to need a private residence for that,” Perry said. “We need to get more organized.”

“Our next meeting is Oct. 15 or sooner,” Mulcahy said, as if to confirm Perry’s notion.

Still, those present held views that cut to the chase, as opposed to the supposedly vague goals and ideals being espoused by protesters near Wall Street.

“This is the only way it ever does change, from the bottom up,” said Perry. She was born in Aspen but lives in Carbondale because she said she can’t afford to live here. “People get so fed up and pissed when they don’t have jobs and when they don’t have money. … And the weirdest part is if we don’t have any money or jobs, how are we going to buy their crap?”

A woman in a Guy Fawkes mask said she is a supporter of “Anonymous,” an online group that helped spearhead Occupation Wall Street and is known as an anarchic haven of sophisticated hackers.

“We know there is a lot of anger at what is going on in our country today,” she said. “We want to support everybody — it doesn’t matter what your politics are. Right now we need to all join together and fight the real enemy, which is corporatism in America.”

She was overheard asking fellow protester Shana Gregory about the lighter side of fomenting revolt.

 Chad Abraham/Aspen Daily News
A handful of protesters ‘occupy’ Wagner Park as part of a growing movement that started on Wall Street last month.

“What’s a revolution without dancing and laughing?” she said. “Of course we have to do that.”

Gregory said she was in disbelief about how the so-called 1 percent, representing the wealthiest of Americans, is treating the nation’s middle and lower classes. The whole world is changing, with everybody out for themselves and America going backward, she said.

“I don’t see that raising the billionaires’ tax from 35 to 39 percent is going to hurt them in the least,” she said, referring to the top income tax rate paid by corporations. “I also think if they legalized marijuana and taxed the heck out of it, marijuana will save the world.”

The protest didn’t impress everyone, especially Kyle Legrua, 17, and a student at Aspen High.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” he said, taking a picture of a sign with his cell phone. “If they need to protest, they should go to Wall Street, where it’s going to maybe make a difference. Who is this helping? No one cares here. It’s a tourist town … just come here and ski. It’s not political here that much.”

Elsewhere in the state, there are at least five Occupy Boulder factions in that city and a larger, ongoing occupation in Denver near the Capitol.

Mulcahy credited the Occupy Wall Street protesters with shedding light on the nation’s “bought government.”

“Democracy shouldn’t be auctioned off to the highest bidder,” he said. “We have to bring the power back to the people by getting rid of the money and the lobbying in government.”

Both he and Perry voted for Obama, and they said they were disappointed with the continuation of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I think the real Obama is in a vat in Virginia somewhere,” Perry laughed.

Supporters of the local movement made an event listing for its modest Occupy Aspen page on Facebook, which had “likes” from 10 people. And they will meet at Mulcahy’s home Oct. 15 at Burlingame Ranch to organize and make signs for a larger rally that is also to be held at Wagner Park.

That may require a special-event permit from the city of Aspen. In general, “any organized activity involving the use of, or having impact upon, public property, facilities, parks, sidewalks, roads or the temporary use of private property in a manner that varies from its current land use, requires a permit,” the city website says.

“While Aspen may be a playground to the 1 percent, it’s the home and workplace for the rest of us,” Perry said. “And I think we should do it on the weekend next time because we might have a better turnout.”