SALT LAKE CITY — Braving rain and unseasonably cool temperatures, more than 200 protesters marched through downtown Salt Lake City Thursday as part of a national movement against economic inequality and the business practices of Wall Street.
OccupySLC began its march at the Utah Capitol and made its way through the city's financial district to Pioneer Park.
Standing under an umbrella at the steps of the Capitol with her husband Evan, Beverly Terry said she was frustrated with the influence corporations have exerted over the country's economy and the negative impact she believes that influence has had on jobs.
"We just need some justice and democracy in this country," she explained. "Corporations are taking over. Votes are being bought. Almost every job is turning into a corporate grab. Everything is just greed."
The 66-year old mother of three adult children said the economy has put her kids' livelihoods in peril, leaving two of them with no health insurance, one unemployed for two years and all with little hope for a prosperous future. She blamed her family's situation on the culture of increasing indifference about the plight of the common man by leaders in Washington, D.C.
"I'd like to see President Obama take charge and try to get Congress to move on jobs (legislation) and start acting like there are more people in this country than the wealthy," Terry said.
Protest organizer Skylar Hawk says they group plans to camp in Pioneer Park indefinitely and organize more demonstrations throughout downtown in the weeks to come. He said they hope to highlight the need to change political and financial systems that favor big business over individuals.
Salt Lake police spokesman Dennis McGowan said the protesters were orderly. Organizers said the group plans to stage only nonviolent demonstrations and maintain a peaceful occupation of the park.
Occupy Wall Street protests began Sept. 17 with demonstrators pitching tents outside the New York Stock Exchange. Similar events have spread across the country, including an "occupation" planned for St. George in the near future.
Meanwhile, the Salt Lake occupation included scores of people carrying signs and even a few wearing masks. Jamel Jarvis was one of several participants who wore masks similar to those worn in the movie "V for Vendetta."
In the film, a charismatic freedom fighter is driven to exact revenge on those who wronged him. He is pursued by a detective leading a quest to capture him before a revolution is ignited.
Jarvis said the reason for his mask was to symbolize his participation in the revolutionary occupation movement.
He said he would like to see the nation move away from the current central banking system that he believes has created much of the economic difficulty that exists today and also revise the way political campaigns are financed.
"I'm not sure why we allow these large campaign contributions from corporations," he said. "It seems very clear that is bribery and illegal."
He also noted the recent Supreme Court decision that ruled that corporations should be considered the same as individuals.
"They have the same rights but none of the liability," he said. "You cannot throw a corporation in prison like you can an individual (if they do something illegal)."
If more people can become aware of the facts of how these issues affect everyday citizens, then the "country can turn around," Jarvis said.
Salt Lake area school teacher Peter Hayes said too many laws and policies work to the detriment of the working class and to the advantage of big business.
Wearing a sign that read, "Wall Street greed equals unemployment," he said corporations are designed to create more profit for shareholders and bigger bonuses for executives.
"Wall Street is responsible for this (recession) because they perpetuate a system of greed and taking money and profit at any cost, including the outsourcing of jobs to other countries," Hayes said. "They have systematically unemployed Americans … caused them to become bankrupt (and the CEOs) walked away with millions of dollars."
He said the national banking system and Wall Street should be tightly regulated to prevent executives from using the system to their advantage at the expense of the average citizen.
"It's ridiculous to take my retirement money (in 401(k) contributions) and send it into the pocket of some 'fat cat' who is making billions of dollars in a year," Hayes said. "That is wrong!"
"We need to reform the way people get elected, change the way Wall Street operates for profit and bring money back to the pockets of people here in America," he said.
Meanwhile, the Utah Bankers Association issued a statement in response to the OccupySLC demonstration, saying it is important to make a distinction between Utah’s banks and Wall Street investment firms.
“It is critical for the health of our economy that people recognize the critical role our local banks play in creating jobs and sustaining our local economy," said UBA President Howard Headlee. "What many people hear during these protests is predominantly inaccurate."
"In fact, when protesters use the word bank they are most likely not even referring to a real, FDIC insured bank," he added. "(Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) insured banks did not get us into this mess. But they will play a critical role in getting us out of it.”