By JULIE JOHNSON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Nearly 200 people marched through downtown Santa Rosa Sunday to recognize the one-year anniversary of Sonoma County’s Occupy Wall Street movement.
Led by the Hubbub Club marching band, the group rallied at Santa Rosa City Hall, banging on pots, pans, tambourines, drums and empty water jugs.
“I don’t think anybody thought we would still be here,” organizer Carl Patrick, 25, of Santa Rosa said through a bull horn.
Last year, Occupy Wall Street began as a sit-in staged by activists in a New York City park.
The movement grew to cities across the world as people united over a belief that the superwealthy held too much influence over politics and the economy.
In Sonoma County, Occupy groups took over patches of public ground during monthlong encampments on the Santa Rosa City Hall lawn. Groups also camped in Petaluma’s Penry Park, Sebastopol’s town plaza and in other cities.
Although the camps have long since disbanded, people took to the streets Sunday in part to remind people that the problems of last year remain.
The looming election also drew people to the streets, including Christina Zapata, 34, a Santa Rosa therapist who brought her two daughters to the march.
Politicians “are detached from the reality we live every day, those of us who rely on public transportation, send our children to public schools,” Zapata said.
But the ultimate premise held by both stalwart activists and newcomers was clarified by Zapata’s 6-year-old daughter, Paola Lopez.
“People fighting for justice,” she said.
With the camps gone, organizers have been able to stop waging battles with local governments and focus on other activities. But the visual presence is also gone.
“We’re doing more things, but it’s not visible,” said organizer James Curtis, 68, a Santa Rosa muralist and art teacher.
About 10 local “working groups” have for a year focused on speaking out for the rights of workers, tenants and the homeless on a small, local scale, Patrick said.
A group of activists continue to stage protests against ordinances prohibiting homeless people from sleeping outside on public property. On Tuesday, they plan to picket outside Santa Rosa City Hall and attend the council meeting.
Another group is starting a newspaper to cover Occupy movement’s continued efforts with a bilingual English-Spanish publication called Occupy Press/Prensa Ocupada.
Activists also are planning an Oct. 30 protest aimed at a local construction company’s alleged labor violations.
Patrick said a team of eight people organized Sunday’s event.
“We’re moving away from a loose-knit spontaneous movement and becoming more of an organization that makes concrete changes,” he said.
On Sunday, poster slogans reflected anger toward banks, called for people to speak out and took stands on local issues facing voters in the November election, reflecting the broad swath of issues championed by Occupy activists.
The messages included phrases like “Campaign Contributions are bribes” and “The boss needs you, you don’t need the boss.”
Marchers briefly blocked traffic lanes as they headed west on First Street to B Street, past Santa Rosa Plaza down Fourth Street, then E Street and back to City Hall.
The hubbub caused storekeepers and waiters to step outside and stopped passersby. Some cars honked in support, a few others to clear the road.
The marchers passed Robert Payne, 44, of Santa Rosa, as he left Russian River Brewing Co.
“I appreciate they are drawing attention to what’s going on, especially during the election season,” said Payne, who runs an Internet marketing company.
Running errands, Carmet Trippo, 53, of Santa Rosa stopped to watch the march.
“I just wanted to see how many people were supporting it,” said Trippo, who is studying to be a drug and alcohol counselor at Santa Rosa Junior College.
She said she thinks protests are still useful as a way to draw people’s attention to issues, “because not everyone reads the paper or watches television.”
A relative newcomer to the Occupy movement, Brianna McGuire, 19, said she felt Sunday’s anniversary march was a chance to get involved in an historical event.
“This is important to a generation,” said McGuire, a Santa Rosa Junior College student.