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'Occupy' supporters arrested in Raleigh

Police arrested 20 supporters of the "Occupy Wall Street" movement who would not leave the State Capitol on Saturday evening.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Raleigh police arrested 20 supporters of the "Occupy Wall Street" movement who would not leave the State Capitol on Saturday evening. 

More than 90 people remained at the Raleigh rally around 7:30 p.m. – more than four hours after their permits expired – when police started making arrests. 

About 75 people moved to the sidewalk, where they were allowed to continue their demonstration. Nineteen people stayed behind, locked arms and were arrested for trespassing. Two hours later, a woman was arrested for trying to enter the Capitol grounds after being told it was closed, police said.

The names of those arrested have not been released. 

"There's a lot more crime going on in the city of Raleigh, Durham and North Carolina that you have to worry about rather than people sitting around and exercising their rights," supporter Shawn Mitchell said. 

Organizers said they would convene again at State Capitol on Sunday at noon and 6:30 p.m.

"Even if we aren't back tomorrow morning, we will be back," law school student Jeanelle Alexander said. 

Earlier Saturday, hundreds of people gathered downtown for the rally. The group's goals are a work in progress, but they appear to match themes familiar with the movement elsewhere: Corporations have too much power and economic inequality needs to be repaired to help the "99 percent" — everyone but the 1 percent richest Americans.

Similar groups have been developing in cities across North Carolina. "Occupy" meetings have been held in Wilmington, Winston-Salem and on college campuses. In Asheville, protesters have been camping at various downtown sites in hopes of finding a permanent spot to occupy, with 100 or more people attending nightly meetings at Pritchard Park.

Jessica Prescott, a recent Meredith College graduate still looking for work, said the movement took off in Raleigh thanks to social media posts earlier this month.

The movement has grown through word-of-mouth, savvy use of social media like Facebook and Twitter, and flyers like the ones being passed out this week that said: "This is our country. We will occupy it. These are our streets. We will occupy them. We are here. We are growing."

Mary Beth Tobin said it was her first-ever protest. "I felt it was important to come because I'm so distraught over what's been happening, and it almost moves me to tears," she said.

Last weekend, the Occupy Raleigh movement attracted about 200 people. In a permit application filed with state officials for Saturday, organizers said they hoped to double that number. 

Like the movement in other cities, Occupy Raleigh wants to literally occupy ground, camping out through Nov. 5. State officials denied Occupy Raleigh that permit in part because the State Capitol Police don't have as many officers as before to provide extended security, Jill Lucas, a spokeswoman for the agency that oversees the police force, said Thursday. The Legislature cut State Capitol Police funding this year by $2.3 million, leading to dozens of layoffs so that its officers largely work on weekdays.

"We are continuing to brainstorm alternative methods and options to obtain a permit and will continue to send a message to Raleigh that we intend to comply with laws should they choose to allow us to do so, however, we intend to begin our occupation on Saturday regardless of permit status," said Angela Schulte, 36, of Cary, a member of the group.

Karen Holliman, of Durham, said policy makers are funneling money to the wrong places.

"They're giving the money to corporations to create jobs, and I see corporations holding on to the money and not creating jobs," Holliman said.

"We want the rich to stop stealing from hardworking Americans," said Stan Garver. For him, the top issue is campaign finance reform. Garner wants to stop corporate America from funding campaigns.

"That's the main problem with our system is that we have corporations that are basically setting policy," he said. "We simply need to recognize what their doing and keep their influence out of our government."

Rep. Bill Faison, a Democrat who serves Orange County, was on hand earlier Saturday  to support the protest and listen to those assembled, but he was not optimistic that they would effect change. He said partisan politics makes any change difficult, and he cast blame on the Republican majority in the North Carolina General Assembly.

"If the Republicans won’t address it, then there’s another solution to the problem – send ‘em out of office," he said. "Put people in office who’ll address the issue and let's fix this. We can fix it. We should fix it. We’ve got to fix it.”

Organizer Mike Gould said the protests will have to reach lawmakers if they are going to be successful.

"Politics got us into this mess," he said. "Good, servant-leader politicians need to get us out of this mess."

Protests were also held Saturday in Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Charlotte.

"This is telling everyone we're unhappy about what's going on in America. We're speaking out against Wall Street corruption. We're all coming together in one voice — and that's a beautiful thing," said Dee Jay Paredi, 20, an unemployed restaurant worker from Mooreseville who jumped at the chance to join the Occupy Charlotte protests after following coverage of the Wall Street movement for weeks.


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