By GUY KOVNER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Organizers of an Occupy Santa Rosa event on Saturday say they are part of a growing national protest against the influence of the superwealthy.
“We’re fighting the global corporate takeover of our everyday lives,” Rachel Mutterperl of Santa Rosa said Tuesday at a planning session for the event to be held in front of Santa Rosa City Hall.
About 40 people, a mix of newcomers to protest politics and veterans of Sonoma County progressive causes, gathered outside A’Roma Roasters in Railroad Square to discuss logistics and debate strategy, including a commitment to nonviolent protest.
Civil disobedience is a possibility later on, but “for now we are going to be cooperative with the police,” said Francisco Diaz, a community organizer from San Rafael and one of six founding members of the week-old group.
The movement is “not hierarchical,” Diaz said, but is depending on “point people” to organize various aspects of the rally and march.
“I like to call it controlled chaos,” he said.
Occupy Santa Rosa was formed in response to the Occupy Wall Street protest, which has filled a park in lower Manhattan since Sept. 17 and is gaining attention from Democratic Party officials and labor unions.
It has also spawned occupations in more than 100 cities, including San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Los Angeles, Chico and Eureka, according to Occupy Together, an online hub for protest activity.
The movement’s common theme is a perceived schism between the 1 percent of Americans in the economic elite versus the other 99 percent.
The richest 1 percent of Americans now take home almost 24 percent of income, up from almost 9 percent in 1976, according to the New York Times.
As discussion of the local group’s long-term objectives bogged down, Diaz called for a focus on preparing for Saturday’s event.
The rally will “create the space where we can talk about solutions,” he said.
Organizers said they expect up to 1,000 people at the rally, and are reaching out to labor unions including the United Farmworkers, Santa Rosa Junior College students, the Peace and Justice Center of Sonoma County, the liberal public policy group MoveOn and the Committee for Immigrant Rights Sonoma County.
Starting at 2 p.m. Saturday, the event will include speeches by Lisa Maldonado, North Bay Labor Council executive director; Ben Boyce, labor activist and coordinator of the Accountable Development Coalition; Carl Patrick, immigrant rights activist; Alicia Sanchez, labor and immigrants rights activist; Davin Cardenas of the North Bay Organizing Project, a social justice advocacy group; and Sonoma State University political scientist Cynthia Boaz, an expert in nonviolent struggle.
Maldonado, who dropped by A’Roma Roasters with Boaz, thanked the Occupy Santa Rosa organizers.
“We’re looking forward to solidarity on Saturday,” she said.
Karyl Averill of Santa Rosa, one of the initial organizers, said she was concerned that labor or political groups could co-opt Wall Street protest movement.
“We don’t want the message hijacked by partisan rhetoric or ideology,” said Averill, a stay-at-home mother who is home-schooling two daughters, ages 3 and 5, and making her first foray into protest organizing.
Mary Moore of Camp Meeker, who started organizing Bohemian Grove protests 31 years ago, said she was “impressed with all the new faces” she saw at the planning session.
Following the speeches, participants will march past several downtown banks, returning to City Hall about 4p.m.
Whether the event turns into an ongoing occupation is uncertain.
“Some people are talking about bringing their tents to the march,” Averill said.