Occupy Augusta hopes to gain momentum

Joey Traina is an organizer of the group Occupy Augusta.

The movement started on Wall Street, but it’s coming to Broad Street in downtown Augusta.

Occupy Wall Street’s local action group, Occupy Augusta, is holding its organizational meeting Wednesday to determine its local goals and plan of action. Although it has no designated leader, Joey Traina is one of the people working to plan the eventual protest downtown.

“We’re making our own demands for Augusta,” he said. “We have our own 99 percent, and we have our own 1 percent.”

Augusta’s 1 percent, Traina said, is made up of people who make decisions about Augusta’s future based on their own interests.

“Really wealthy board members of groups who are trying to dictate city development,” he said. “Deke Copenhaver and Cal Ripken, definitely.”

The beliefs fueling the Occupy Augusta movement aren’t new to Traina and his friends. Traina is the president of the Richmond County Young Democrats and said he has long since felt that the majority of Augustans are not heard.

“We want to give people a voice,” he said. “This has been building for quite some time.”

Terence Dicks is also a part of Occupy Augusta and a member of the Richmond County Democratic Party’s state committee, but he feels the message of the Occupy movement is one that people of all political persuasions can agree on.

“It’s just American,” he said. “If we bail Wall Street out, they should be accountable.”

Dicks said he has long since been involved with issues such as Social Security and the housing crisis. The protests, he said, are just a way to tell everyone that the current financial system is not OK.

“These trading houses have these instruments, like subprime mortgage, that aren’t being supervised enough,” he said. “We have withdrawn oversight, and it’s hurting people who can’t afford to be hurt.”

It’s one thing for the economy to be bad for everyone, he said, but when people struggling through bankruptcy see a huge corporation bailed out, it creates an angry discontent.

“The American dream is based on fair play, and people get discouraged when they work hard and believe in the system only for it to turn on them,” he said. “This movement is a very basic thing.”

The meeting this week, is not a protest, and if Occupy Augusta wants to stage one, there are rules it would have to follow.

Col. Gary Powell, of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, handles all protest permit applications. Unless the group is larger than 50 people, no permit is necessary. Law enforcement officials might stop by if they see a crowd gathered, but as long as the group stays clear of private property and doesn’t block sidewalks or building entrances, it won’t have any trouble.

“We’re not going to limit anyone’s freedom of speech,” he said. “But they do have to observe the laws.”

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For more information, go to Occupy Augusta’s Twitter feed at twitter.com/OWSaugustaGA.

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