Wednesday, November 16, 2011/lk
The first "Occupy the Gorge" movement camp-out was scheduled to come to a close Friday with a clean-up gathering at the Mosier event site where numerous tents had filled an open lot along the main street of town. However, the group is far from finished in their work.
According to Corie Lahr, Mosier resident and event organizer, the "Occupy the Gorge - Mosier" event attracted the attention of regional and national media to the results of financial debacles on Wall Street within rural areas.
"Rural communities have been hit harder than anyone by the policies the 'Occupy' movement has formed to fight," said Lahr, in an online article recently featured on the national "Occupy Wall Street" website.
According to Lahr, one additional "action" is planned for the group.
On Saturday from 3-4 p.m., an organized rally against the proposed 30,000-square-foot Walmart expansion is planned for the entrance to Hood River's City Hall.
Entitled "You are Not Above the Law," the rally seeks to encourage the city to oppose the expansion.
When asked how this opposition coincides with the "Occupy" message, Lahr said, "We want to keep people's voices alive in the Gorge and stop abuses by corporate entities.
"Walmart is one of the largest corporations in the world. We don't think this expansion fits with a vision for localized economies. Why should we allow Walmart to avoid local zoning laws ... do something illegal? This is a corporation whose profits do not even return to our community."
Through a coordinated outreach effort to meet the Nov. 8 deadline, "Occupy the Gorge" succeeded in adding 25 signatures from local residents to letters submitted to the city planning commission, expressing opposition to the proposed expansion.
"We have the possibility, as a small community, to create sustainable local economies and good jobs," said Lahr.
"We have a lot of employed folks with "Occupy the Gorge" who are just having difficulty making ends meet. When people say 'just get a job,' I say, what jobs?
"Rejecting low-wage job employers, and interests of businesses who want to export our jobs overseas, is critical," she said. "We want to keep good jobs here and we are taking action to support that."
According to Lahr, allowing Walmart to expand its grocery department is also a concern for local jobs.
"It will hurt our farmers markets, our farm stands, ... Rosauers and Safeway, who will be at a disadvantage trying to compete against their buying power and overseas product imports ... Both local grocery stores pay better wages and benefits."
By way of additional political action, the group posted a handwritten whiteboard signed with 35 "Occupy" signatures on site in Mosier. The group challenged Senator Ron Wyden (D - Ore.) with the following request:
"We strongly urge you to join Senator Merkley in opposing the Supreme Court ruling that grants corporate entities the rights of persons. Encourage legislative change to restore the power to the citizenry - and out of the hands of corporations."
Small communities around the country appeared to resonate with the Mosier residents' concerns, courtesy of an effective "Occupy Wall Street" web-post.
As far away as Gambier, Ohio (pop. 1,871) signs in support of the "Occupy Mosier" action could be seen posted along the small mid-western town's streets.