From Wall Street to State Street: Occupy Perry Square

Perry Square might not be Central Park, but recently it has been stormed by protesters angry at big wigs, just like those challenging Wall Street in New York City.

And even some Gannon University students have joined the fray. Jared Schaaf, a freshman history major, said he and about three of his fellow freshmen have participated in “Occupy Erie.” Monday was the last night participants slept at Perry Square, as he said police are no longer allowing them to do so. They also were required to take down their tarps, which kept them warm.

“It’s essentially an eviction,” he said.

Schaaf said it’s a really interesting time to be participating in the event because everything is happening so quickly as restrictions are being placed on the group.

Schaaf spent two nights at Perry Square. He said he has also been there most of each day when he is not in class. He even does his homework there.

Outreach is one of the main goals of the “Occupy Erie” gatherers. He said many people don’t understand the message of the movement

“When we stand on the streets with our signs, people will flip us off and tell to us get a job,” he said.

But he said he has two jobs and he is not just looking for a handout. Instead, he is seeking the chance to have a better future.

“I have the opportunity to get a fair chance to get a good job, instead of having to face against obstacles that I can’t handle, and maybe, perhaps give myself a better economic position in life.”

Though this message may sound similar to that of the New York group, Schaaf said “Occupy Erie” isn’t the same as “Occupy Wall Street.” He said protestors stood at the Bicentennial Tower as a symbol that they were here for the people of Erie first and foremost.

Another way the movement has been localized is that people have gone to protest in front of Wells Fargo. Schaaf said that they are protesting bailouts the company was given that they haven’t paid back yet. He stressed that they weren’t protesting employees of the company, but the CEOs who he said profited, despite their failures.

“There’s such corruption within our economy and our government,” he said. “We’ve been silenced by our money.

“We want an end to that. We want an end to big businesses ruling how we do our things.”

Schaaf said another important element of the movement is getting word out to the media.

He said many media outlets can’t cover the protests because the big corporations who run them won’t let them cover it.

Although many people have misunderstood the movement, he said, people have also been supportive. Food donations are so overflowing that they have been giving food to the homeless.

Schaff said though everyone is not involved in the movement, they should at least care about its message. He said everyone is part of the “99” that the movement is fighting for. People misunderstand this movement as just one for liberals, he said. But the Perry Square gathering includes liberals, conservatives, libertarians and many others, all seeking the common good, he said. He encouraged passersby to talk to participants, who are interested in sharing their views, and would welcome questions.

“It’s important to get involved, because if you don’t, you become complacent with corruption and greed,” he said.

“You let the money speak for you, but you need to be a controller of your own fate.”


[email protected]