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Occupy Boston's signs get the message across

Posted by Jeremy C. Fox  October 19, 2011 01:19 PM

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(Jeremy C. Fox for

Protesters stop by the Occupy Boston sign tent to make a new sign or choose from dozens left behind by other protesters.

As the encampment in Dewey Square has grown in recent weeks, so have the number and variety of messages coming out of Occupy Boston. And while some are conveyed through music, chants, press releases, or conversation with passersby, the top tool in the protesters’ kit is often a simple piece of cardboard with a clever slogan.

In the main camp’s eastern corner, along Atlantic Avenue, sits a sign tent where protesters can pick up markers and cardboard to make signs or choose from dozens left behind by other protesters. And along the street edge of the camp, protesters stand with signs to attract the attention of pedestrians and drivers passing along the busy street.

On Tuesday, Charlestown resident Lisa Doherty stood along Atlantic Avenue, holding a simple cardboard sign with the word “imagine” and a peace symbol. Small and thin, with sharp features and thick, dark hair, the 56-year-old has become a recognizable presence at the encampment.

Like many protesters, Doherty is unemployed. Before the real estate market collapsed, she worked as a mortgage loan processor, but now she’s been out of work for three years. She’s getting by with help from her supportive family and is still looking for a job, she said, but it’s hard to remain upbeat.

“At this point, I just don’t think I’m going to get a job,” she said. “It’s scary.”

The sign Doherty held wasn’t one of her own creation — she’s been making signs reading, “People before profits” — but when she returns to the camp each morning, she said, they’ve often been pulled from the stack and added to the growing row of signs stuck in the park’s planting bed Atlantic Avenue. She chose the sign with the peace symbol out of the stack because she liked its simple message.

“This is generic in a way, but it’s not,” said Doherty, 56. “It assimilates everything into just one word. Just imagine a better world. That’s it. I have seven grandchildren, and I want this world to be a better place for them.”

Nearby, Dan Wylie-Sears, 42, held a sign reading, “Too big to fail is too big to exist.” The Brighton resident said the sign was one of several he had made, some with the same slogan and others with different messages, but this one gets to the central issue he’s protesting against.

“’Too big to fail’ is what’s at the heart of the financial troubles that caused the recession,” Wylie-Sears said. “It’s not even that they mishandled money. It’s that they were misregulated.”

Wylie-Sears would like to see laws changed to make it possible for large corporations to fail without drastic consequences, to make it unprofitable to do things that would lead to catastrophic economic consequences, and to split up companies when they become “too big to fail.”

Wylie-Sears believes he’s one of those suffering from the economic downturn. He said he has a master’s degree in mathematics and worked as a lab technician before putting career aside several years ago to become a stay-at-home dad. Now his youngest child is in kindergarten, and he wants to return to work but can’t find a job.

Sandy Pimentel considers herself one of the fortunate ones. She joined the protest just for the day, carrying a sign that read, “Tax me + regulate — for jobs — for veterans — for seniors — for schools. It’s OK. Tax me. Close loop holes.”

Before her retirement, the 69-year-old made a good living working in various capacities in three different district attorneys’ offices in Massachusetts, most recently as director of the program for victims and witnesses at the Norfolk County DA’s office.

Pimentel and her husband, who is still working, live in Edgartown, on Martha’s Vineyard. They’re not rich, but they’re comfortable, and Pimentel said they can afford to pay more and are ready to do it. She said they’re not alone.

“A lot of people like my husband and I feel the same way,” Pimentel said. “Not everyone agrees with greed.”

E-mail Jeremy C. Fox at
Follow Jeremy C. Fox on Twitter: @jeremycfox.
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(Jeremy C. Fox for

Student protesters held signs and banners as they marched into Dewey Square to join Occupy Boston on Oct. 5.

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