LOUSIVILLE, Ky. — Small but dedicated bands of protestors have set up in cities around Kentucky to bring the Occupy Wall Street message to the Bluegrass state.
Many of the demonstrators have put up camps and are staying overnight like the activists who descended on Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan to call attention to income inequality and policies they say favor the wealthy over the poor.
Protestors have staked out spots in Louisville and Lexington as well as smaller cities like Ashland, Paducah, Owensboro and Bowling Green in recent weeks.
"I heard about New York and really wanted to be there, but there was no way I could put everything down and go," said 27-year-old Jennifer Potter, who organized Occupy Ashland along with a friend.
Potter said her main concern is "getting money out of politics." She and other protestors have been demonstrating at Ashland's Judd Plaza since last month, and Potter said she spent about two and a half weeks staying overnight.
Many of the small Kentucky movements have set up websites and joined with other activists to protest issues in Kentucky. Occupy Louisville activists joined the Sierra Club and local environmental activists Thursday at the LG&E billing center downtown to protest the company's recent rate hikes.
One sign said: "The 99% Demand Green Energy Now."
Occupiers in Lexington have called on the state treasurer to move Kentucky holdings from multinational banks like JP Morgan Chase and place them in a financial institution headquartered in the state.
At Occupy Louisville, about ten people have endured increasingly chilly nights to camp out a downtown park. On a chilly morning last week, occupiers readied for a move to a different downtown park to make way for the city's Christmas celebration.
"To me the cold's not a big deal," one of the organizers, 42-year-old Jason Whirlwind, said as he stood next to a picnic table with coolers, a huge water jug and recycling bins. "If you can't handle this, you're not going to be able to handle what's coming" this winter, he said.
Whirlwind said the estimated $1 trillion in stimulus funding the federal government has distributed in recent years "is being put in savings accounts, and not spent on giving people jobs. It's being put aside for a rainy day, which was not the intention of that money being given out."
Occupy Louisville member Pam Newman said volunteers don't have to spend the night to be a part of the movement.
"We're trying to say that in order to be an occupant, all you have to do is help," said Newman, a 30-year-old freelance writer and musician in Louisville. "We really need people to come and wash dishes or come and help organize a rally or march, or just talk about issues."
The Kentucky gatherings have been spared the clashes that have occurred at other protests around the country, especially on the West Coast.
Police cleared out an anti-Wall Street encampment in Oakland just before dawn Monday, weeks after a late October police raid led to the arrests of more than a hundred people. Over the weekend, police drove hundreds of demonstrators from weeks-old encampments in Portland, Oregon, arresting more than 50 people. And last week, police confronted student protestors in Berkeley, Calif., as they tried to establish an Occupy encampment.
City officials in Louisville said the demonstrators have been peaceful and considerate to the public.
"Largely they've been very cooperative and cleaned up after themselves so we're pretty pleased with that," said Chris Poynter, a spokesman for Mayor Greg Fischer. Poynter said Occupy Louisville has a permit with the city through the rest of the year.
Whirlwind said Louisville Police have been "beyond kind to us."
The Louisville group gathered about 100 people on Sunday for a march to kick off the group's "7 Days of Solidarity," which will pair the demonstrators with local groups and focus on a different issue — like peace, jobs or health care — each day this week.
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