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Occupy Providence to protest in park on Oct. 15

By David Klepper
Associated Press / October 7, 2011

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PROVIDENCE, R.I.—Rhode Island activists inspired by the protests against Wall Street greed and economic inequality that have been spreading to several cities plan to launch their own rally next week.

Occupy Providence has no formal leaders and no set agenda, but members told The Associated Press that they share broad concerns about corporate greed, economic disparities and government inaction.

Activists say they'll meet at Burnside Park in downtown Providence on Oct. 15 to launch the protest. A few dozen participants met Friday at the park to make protest signs before joining another rally to protest a proposal to open a charter school in Providence.

The group lists numerous reasons for their activism. Those interviewed Friday cited tax policies that favor big companies and the rich, income disparities, the wars in the Middle East, subsidies to oil companies, the power of lobbyists in the U.S. capital as well as cuts to education and public transit.

"It's about giving a voice to a large majority of working-class people and middle-class people who can't buy politicians and don't feel represented," said Greg Morse of Cranston.

The group makes decisions by consensus. While members say the lack of formal leadership represents the group's grass-roots nature, it can pose challenges.

On Friday, one woman handed an AP reporter a list of formal demands that included term limits for members of Congress and an end to partisan redistricting. Other members quickly repudiated the list, insisting that it hadn't been vetted by the entire group and therefore didn't represent Occupy Providence.

Member Michael McCarthy said Occupy Providence is more about starting a conversation than it is about any particular agenda. If the group gets people talking about corporate influence in Washington, or social inequalities, then it's accomplished something important, he said.

"If this was to end tomorrow, I wouldn't feel like I've wasted my time," said McCarthy, a Providence resident.

Similar protests are under way in cities around the country, inspired by the Occupy Wall Street rally that began last month.

The Providence group will need a permit if it intends to erect tents or stay in the park for several days. Providence city spokesman David Ortiz said at this point city officials have no reason to be concerned about the protest.

"People have a right to free speech and the park is a public place," Ortiz said.

Bill Jackson sat in Burnside Park enjoying nice weather and watching members of Occupy Providence make protest signs Friday. He said he shares their concerns about Wall Street and Washington.

Jackson, who said he was homeless years ago, shared practical advice: "If they're going to camp in the park, tell them to bring heaters."