Some 200 Occupy Santa Cruz protestors of all ages stood in front of three banks Friday and moved from San Lorenzo Park to the park outside Mission Santa Cruz.
No one was arrested. Tourists gawked. Protestors handed out leaflets.
"You are the 99 percent," they chanted outside one of the banks (see videos to the right).
The protestors had their own loosely-styled government, making decisions about what to do next by a consensus vote.
Friday's General Assembly began with the legal team stating risks protesters were taking by violating the park's closing time and the city's public sleeping ban. It was the second consecutive night of around the clock action in Solidarity with New York's Occupy Wall Street live-in.
“We need to be out of here by 8 a.m. tomorrow because it is not only trespassing, it is an educational code,” said Steve Pleich, leader of the legal defense group for the protests. “If you are here they will confiscate everything here and you will be arrested. We do not have money available to bail people out, and if this happens we will not be able to help very much.”
Despite the warning several raised their hands to show their support for staying the night.
The group's energy was high, and keeping order of the discussion was a challenge for facilitator Noah Sheperdson because the group had just returned from its first march which took their messages to the front doors of several banks downtown. At the Bank Of America on River Street an employee locked the door immediately after anyone entered or exited the bank.
The mass also stopped in front of Well's Fargo and Chase Bank, making plenty of noise and blanketing entrances several bodies deep. They did not, however, prevent traffic flowing in and out if people needed to get through.
Manya Orescan, a local waitress and Cabrillo student witnessed the march as it rolled down Pacific Avenue. She said she has very little time to participate in the protests but was happy to see people speaking out against a system she sees as rigged toward those who have money at birth.
“We need to start to open our eyes and start realizing that consuming has lead us to looking too outwardly, and we need to start looking inward and reflect on what is important,” she said. “when you live in a consumerist country you are clogging your consciousness with all this exterior crap and it doesn't allow you to figure out what really makes you happy.”
The population has not exploded yet, but turn out remained steady and the enthusiasm at Friday's General Assembly dwarfed vibes from the night before.
All decisions on direct actions are made by consensus at General Assembly meetings each weeknight at 6 p.m. Individuals were, however, full of ideas about what sparked them to action and how they would like to see the country change.
Jenny Mitchell, owner of the Digital Media Factory in Santa Cruz, spoke for herself. She has been considering expanding her business, she said, but the banks are demanding she put up her house as collateral for the loan she would need. With the economy on shaky ground that is not a risk she said she could take.
“The changes have been unbridled for so long that we need to start turning the tide,” said Mitchell. “We need to start pinpointing the people who stole trillions of dollars, and we need to prosecute.”
The protesters had many ideas to trigger a chain reaction that would improve the lives for “the 99 percent” in local communities around the country.
Armand Najha, who lived in New Orleans when the levies broke during Hurricane Katrina, said she wants to see stipends given to people who are disenfranchised from birth because they are born into families without accumulated wealth.
“I drive trucks and do tattoos. I have skill sets and opportunities," said Najha. “But there are many people who don't even know how to get started.”
Although the movement's headquarters moved to Mission Plaza from San Lorenzo Park, as night fell the feeling was the same as Thursday.
A steady drum beat as people ate donated vegan soup in bread bowls and began deciding on what steps they would take into the weekend, including a possible move to the Santa Cruz County Courthouse.