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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Occupy Gainesville members celebrate one year with march

With a hotdog in one hand and a drumstick in the other, 70-year-old John Fullerton pounded out a steady beat as 13 people and a dog ambled down University Avenue.

To celebrate the one-year anniversary of Occupy Gainesville, a protest movement inspired by Occupy Wall Street, a group of movement members marched from Bo Diddley Community Plaza to 13th Street, holding signs and wearing black T-shirts that displayed the phrase, “We are the 99 percent.”

The Occupy Gainesville movement kicked off about a month after Occupy Wall Street’s influence spread to cities across the world.

Occupy Gainesville members organized several protests during the past year, including a few during which members were arrested on charges of trespassing. Bo Diddley’s son was among the people arrested.

Nancy Jones, 49, said she joined the Occupy movement in November because she was thirsty for activism.

She said Occupy Gainesville represents several causes, from homelessness to environmentalism.

“We all feel it’s critically important to build communities and wake up to what’s a sustainable activity and what’s not,” Jones said.

Before their march, the Occupy members took brightly colored chalk to the bricks of Bo Diddley Community Plaza, scrawling slogans like “We’ve got chalk, they’ve got guns — tell me, who are the violent ones?”

A man with dreadlocks strummed a mandolin as the protesters sang “Happy Birthday” to themselves.

The movement has lost momentum throughout the course of the year, said 59-year-old Annette Gilley. She said she attended a training session at Occupy Wall Street, where she learned how to interrupt “business as usual” on Wall Street.

During Friday’s march, a small mix-breed dog, Albie, sniffed bushes along the route, following the small crowd. At one point, a man wearing a bandana over his face sat down in the road facing traffic.

As the marchers passed Bank of America, they started yelling, “Banks got bailed out. We got sold out.” When they reached the street corner in front of Holiday Inn, the Occupy members posed for a commemorative photo.

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