COLUMBUS — Ohioans inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement and angry at what they see as too much corporate influence on government have expanded their protests throughout the state — both in size, location and diversity.
In the city’s first demonstration, about 300 protesters gathered in downtown Youngstown on Saturday to rally against corporate greed and Ohio’s contested new collective bargaining law, The Vindicator newspaper reported.
Demonstrators carried signs, passed around petitions and listen to speakers rail against what they viewed as exploitative policies of banking institutions and corporate America.
“Wall Street started the war, and we the people will finish it,” Democratic state Rep. Robert Hagan told the crowd.
In Ohio’s capital city, Occupy Columbus protesters rallied outside of the Statehouse, where they had been camped in tents on the sidewalk since Monday.
Columbus Public Safety Department spokeswoman Amanda Ford estimated that about 150 people were participating in the rally — the largest gathering she had seen.
The demonstrators’ permit to camp on the sidewalk will lapse at midnight, and they will be able to reapply on Monday, she told The Associated Press. The Columbus Marathon takes place on Sunday.
Michael Stone, one of the Columbus organizers, expressed frustration with the city for not renewing the camping permit.
“The city hasn’t been cooperating with us as much as they could,” he said. “We also applied for a permit for a tent city in a public park, which they denied without explanation or further consideration.”
Stone said the occupation was getting more diverse as it goes on. While it consists mostly of younger people, he said more older adults and people of different backgrounds were showing up and participating in demonstrations.
Occupiers based in Cincinnati’s Piatt Park held two rallies on Saturday, capping of the city’s first week of protests.
One of the group’s organizers, Kristin Brand, told the AP that demonstrators moved their tent city to another side of the park to accommodate a wedding that evening.
“We brought flowers in, and some of us are even dressing up,” she said.
Earlier, on Friday night police began issuing citations against protesters again after a hiatus on Thursday, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported. Through Wednesday, police had issued 140 citations for a total of $14,700 in fines.
Cincinnati police had not responded to requests for comment as of Saturday evening.
The Cleveland protest entered its ninth day on Saturday, and WKYC-TV in Cleveland reported that the movement had spread to Akron and Canton.