About 70 people carried signs and chanted slogans through the downtown streets Saturday as part of an Occupy Baton Rouge rally.
With his 10-month-old daughter, Twyla, sleeping in a tummy carrier, organizer Chris Chemel, of Baton Rouge, yelled out the cadence: “Banks got bailed out. We got sold out.”
The crowd marched past the closed main offices of Capital One and Chase banks. Downtown Baton Rouge was largely empty, except for patrons watching the LSU-Auburn football game on the television sets in bars and restaurants.
Chemel said that large multi-national banks have set policies that hurt working people. He urged customers to close their accounts at the large financial institutions and, instead, do business with local banks and credit unions.
Carrying signs reading, “Not everyone can be CEO” and “I’ll believe corporations are people when Texas executes a corporation,” the group marched past the LSU Shaw Center for the Arts to the levee by the USS Kidd Veterans Memorial & Museum. Some workers came out of their businesses to watch the procession and wave.
The Occupy Wall Street protests, which began in New York two months ago, have spread to cities around the world.
In London, a group calling itself Occupy London Stock Exchange camped outside the Cathedral of St. Paul, leading church officials to shut down the famous landmark. Also on Saturday, about 4,000 marched on the streets of Frankfurt, Germany, protesting banking policies of German financial institutions, according to news reports.
Protesters at these events, generally, have questioned the fairness of government and corporate policies that financially help businesses that continue to lay off workers, increase prices and balk at paying more taxes.
Similar “Occupy” protests have been held in Lafayette, New Orleans and Shreveport. This was the first such event in Baton Rouge.
Bruce Blaney, of Baton Rouge, was among the 125 who gathered at the State Capitol prior to the march. He attended a similar protest on Oct. 15 by MoveOn.org. He said that while a handful of those attending the Occupy rally on Saturday were at the MoveOn event last week, most were not.
After the march, the remaining members returned to the State Capitol and sat on the steps to decide their next move.
Nathan Anderson, an LSU political science major, led the discussion using Robert’s Rules of Order as the group debated how to handle next Saturday’s event.
Occupy Wall Street groups around the nation want to hold simultaneous events at each of the nation’s state capitols on Saturday, Oct. 29. Occupy groups from around Louisiana are planning to come to Baton Rouge, Chemel said.
Local organizers pointed out that the eighth annual Louisiana Book Festival takes place in and around the State Capitol at the same time.
The group on the steps took a vote and a majority decided to move next Saturday’s event to a park near the USS Kidd, rather than disrupt the book festival, Chemel said.
The group also voted to allow some of their number to gather at the park around Huey Long’s grave on Friday to distribute information to people attending the “Live After Five” concert at nearby A.Z. Young Park on Third Street, he said.
Chemel and Bryan Perkins organized Saturday’s Baton Rouge protest through social media such as Facebook. Both said they are not affiliated with other “Occupy” groups. But members of the other groups have been contacting them, Perkins said.
He and Chemel met a couple of weeks of ago when they, independently, started to organize an event in Baton Rouge, Perkins said.
Chemel said he realizes Baton Rouge is a very conservative town and felt his voice was not being heard. Perkins said he had a similar feeling.