Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

December 28, 2011

Ashland still occupied

Protest loses momentum

ASHLAND — Organizers of the Occupy Ashland movement in support of the nationwide Occupy Wall Street protests seem to be losing momentum as cold weather makes it more difficult for local protesters to remain visible, and participants find themselves divided in their opinions about how they should operate.

Many who initially tried to help and guide the local effort have walked away in frustration. However, those who remain dedicated to the cause say they will continue to represent “the 99 percent” at the local level.

Cory Simmons, 27, of Ironton created the Occupy Ashland, Occupy Huntington and Occupy Tri-State websites as well as coordinating the local group’s messages on Facebook. He has since walked away from the movement, and even with regrets said the experience taught him valuable lessons.

“I quit a job that I love just to do Occupy fulltime,” said Simmons, who added he also sacrificed time with his family and other personal concerns “in hopes of doing something really big.” Simmons said he feels the Occupy Ashland movement lost momentum and support when those who had been protesting at Judd Plaza voted to “unoccupy” the downtown space after being faced with the possibility of city officials taking action to remove them.

“Whenever it started everybody was very much on the same page,” Simmons said, adding the group “reached a breaking point” when they did not have enough people to stay on site overnight. The vote to leave Judd Plaza did not sit well with many, he said.

“We felt like that was a big step back and pretty much we threw a temper tantrum about it,” he said.

While aspects of the experience are regrettable, Simmons said he certainly learned from it.

“It got me interested in thinking about the bigger problems of mankind,” he said. “I think there are problems Occupy does not have the answers for ... things like greed. At some point you realize you’re just wasting your time.”

Today, Occupy Ashland has a few people who remain active in their demonstration of support for the nationwide movement. Among the most visible individuals working on behalf of Occupy Ashland are  Tina Webb and Liam Edy, a pair of retirees who say they are disappointed many who expressed their commitment early on have either abandoned the effort or switched to Internet communications to get their point across.

“We’re trying to show them what commitment looks like,” said Edy, who cites his experience as a member of the steelworkers union among the reasons he feels it remains important to keep showing up for a couple of hours each day.

“The whole point of this is to get people talking. I don’t care if they agree or disagree, I want them to think and then vote,” he said.

“We will be here until something changes or we’re dead,” Webb said with a chuckle, later adding she doesn’t expect things to change in their lifetime, and feels their daily Occupy demonstrations are an effort on behalf of coming generations.

Edy said each of them were frustrated by news about this nation’s circumstances, and feel they are accomplishing something by bringing the Occupy message to the street.

“We used to scream at the TV set,” he said with a soft smile.

“The TV can’t hear you and Washington can’t hear you,” Webb added, explaining they don’t expect people to agree with anything or everything they believe in, but simply hope to spur people into action. “People can start by voting. It aggravates me they have so many complaints and don’t vote.”

Webb and Edy said they welcome others who agree with the principles of the Occupy movement, and believe individual participation with small groups such as Occupy Ashland will ultimately be counted as part of the bigger picture.

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2651.

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