More than two hundred people gathered in Bloomington’s Peoples Park on Sunday to begin an occupation of their own.
Occupy Bloomington began quietly, with an atmosphere more akin to a large community picnic than a loud demonstration.
The elderly sat on benches while small children ran around the park with plastic swords. Young couples held their cardboard protest signs but also held leashes to their excited dogs.
But as various demonstrators hopped on top of a stone bench in the park’s center to rally the crowd, the volume slowly increased until the demonstration was on the move.
“Show me what democracy looks like,” the crowd began chanting as it marched down Kirkwood Avenue. “This is what democracy looks like.”
While the demonstrators admitted that there was not a complete consensus about specific reasons for participating in Occupy Bloomington except protesting general corporate greed, the marchers seemed to pick one business in town to symbolize their frustration: Chase Bank on the corner of Kirkwood and College avenues.
After standing in front of the old courthouse on the square shouting “We are the 99 percent,” the crowd crossed the street and filled the bank’s entrance and the sidewalk in front of it.
The chanting — this time, “We got sold out, Chase got bailed out" — soon gave way to more impromptu speeches.
Bloomington resident Lisa T. Webb told the crowd how she lost her family’s home after the death of her parents. There was no bail out for her and her house despite there being one for banks, she said.
“I’m here to let you all know that as a union, what you are fighting for today, democracy, it can be retained,” Webb said. “It can be retained when United States citizens come together and fight for the very same things our country was based on.”
An hour into the demonstration, the crowd agreed to head back to Peoples Park. Bloomington resident Ian Brewer, 49, hung near the back of the group as it made its return trip.
“I’m just tired of corporate corruption,” Brewer said. “We need to overturn this flawed idea, this fiction of corporate personhood.”
Brewer said he has now lost two jobs after the work was shipped to the Philippines, a result of corporations’ hunt for lower costs and higher profits, no matter the human cost.
“It’s time that American corporations stop the mindless pursuit of profits,” he said. “It’s ruining people, their lives, their families.”
Back at People’s Park, the crowd struggled to reach an agreement on where exactly in Bloomington they should occupy. Peoples Park was the original location, but the park closes at 11 p.m., meaning if the demonstrators were to stay, they could face arrest.
Some argued to move the occupation to Dunn Meadow, which has a history of protests and demonstrations. But even demonstrations in the meadow have not happened without police interference.
As minor arguments occasionally found their way into the discussion, three demonstrators began setting up their camp in the back of the park.
Nick, Lauren and Alex, who asked that their last names not be used in this story, quickly pitched a red tent near a bench filled with bags of organic mixed greens, sacks of Michigan apples and loaves of bread.
The three demonstrators expressed apprehension for how the demonstration was beginning to be organized but said they were still excited to see such a movement taking place.
Lauren said she does not agree with what the Bloomington campaign may be shaping up to be, but she agrees with the idea of social justice. As someone who works with homeless youth, she said she sees how hard it can be for children with ambition to break out of poverty.
“We may not be in agreement, but we do share a common thread,” she said. “I am thrilled to see so many people giving a shit. There’s a general consensus that ‘I’m pissed so I’m gonna do something.’ That’s progress.”
For Nick, Occupy Bloomington is about solidarity with the demonstrators in New York.
“It’s exciting to read about Occupy Wall Street,” Nick said. “I’m excited to be here, feeling like I can be in solidarity with people I can’t be with physically.”
As the sun began to set and hours began to tick away to the park closing, a handful of police officers began their own occupation, leaning against bicycles in front of Hartzell’s Ice Cream shop across the street.
While the police looked on, the discussion about where exactly to occupy continued, and other demonstrators began pitching their town tents.
“I think solidarity is the key word,” Alex said, moving out of the way to make some space for his new neighbor. “I don’t really know most of these people. I don’t agree with all of them. But there is this dawning realization that capitalism does not work.”
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