Occupy Wall Street spin-offs come to Texas

By Will Weissert

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Oct. 6 2011 2:36 p.m. MDT

A protester takes part in an "Occupy Austin" protest, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2011, in Austin, Texas.

Eric Gay, Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas — Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio on Thursday as cities around Texas joined the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations demanding an end to corruption in politics and business.

Upwards of 300 marchers worked their way to the Federal Reserve Building in Dallas, which police fortified with metal barriers. Houston police estimated that a crowd of 200 marched from the J.P. Morgan Chase building to City Hall. In Austin, more than 200 people gathered outside City Hall waving signs reading "End the Fed" and "Greed is evil. I am the 99 percent," while listening to impromptu speeches.

Nearly 100 protesters gathered in San Antonio's Travis Park and later marched toward the Federal Reserve Building there.

Organizers of the protests are using social media to coordinate activities, and say they plan to occupy those locations for as long as possible.

There were no reports of arrests or major disturbances, though Houston police stepped in after a crowd surrounded one counter-protester. Justin Conry, a 28-year-old owner of a carpet cleaning business, was waving a sign that read, "Blame yourself not the bank. Hard work pays off," though the scene remained peaceful.

"I'm mad at the blame game going on right now," cried Dave King, who told the Austin crowd he had been a public employee for 23 years. "Blame public employees, blame the poor. I blame the wealthy people. If you're jobs creators, where are the jobs?"

David Larrick Smith, 40, from the Dallas suburb of Rowlett, said he was protesting "all these billionaires who have bought our government" and said he had lost faith in President Barack Obama.

"I voted for Obama and he punked out," said Smith, who runs an education consulting business. "He had the opportunity to stand for the American people, and he's become a political puppet."

The main Occupy Wall Street protests started Sept. 17 with a few dozen demonstrators who tried to pitch tents in front of the New York Stock Exchange. Since then, hundreds have set up camp nearby in Zuccotti Park and unions have now begun lending their organizing muscle to the protests in New York.

Demonstrators have varied causes but have largely decried unemployment and economic inequality while reserving their harshest criticism for Wall Street. On Saturday, about 700 people were arrested and given disorderly conduct summonses for spilling into the roadway of New York's Brooklyn Bridge despite warnings from police.

Similar protests have started across the country, each organized locally with no official leaders.

Texas demonstration organizers are asking supporters to close accounts in major banks and to move money into credit unions. They also want reforms to campaign finance and are demanding that politicians pay more attention to average citizens.

Houston police did not stop traffic for Thursday's march, forcing demonstrators to wait at red lights — though the crowd was cooperative. They chanted, "Banks got bailed out and we got sold out" and "Hey, hey, ho, ho, corporate greet has got to go."

Barbara Kuyper-Cross, a 58-year-old cancer survivor, sat in her scooter holding a "Banksters are gangsters" sign.

"Fixing the economy is going to be tougher than beating cancer," she said.

Upon arriving at Houston's City Hall, the crowd listened to speakers, where one man hung a stained American flag backward with the worlds "Sold Out" scrawled across it.

Austin protesters said they were tired of being branded un-American by opposing market forces, and at one point began chanting, "USA! USA!"

In Dallas, a former insurance agent and bed and breakfast operator, 73-year-old Amelia Core Jenkins, rode the bus to the protest and held a homemade sign that read, "Tax the rich."

"I think if our legislators realize people are very angry, they might do something different," she said.

Cordell Rasco, a 19-year-old from the Dallas suburb of Irving, marched with a Young Democrats T-shirt on, but said he was protesting the use of corporate donations to political campaigns.

"I believe our system is being bought by people with money," Rasco said.

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Associated Press writers Juan A. Lozano in Houston, and Danny Robbins and Schuyler Dixon in Dallas contributed to this report.

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