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November 17, 2011

Organizers raising awareness for Occupy Cullman

Rally planned for 6 p.m. Thursday night at Heritage Park

CULLMAN — With the Occupy Wall Street movement now established in more than 100 major cities across the nation, a group of local organizers are trying to raise awareness about the cause with a local rally.

The movement started in New York two months ago, when a group of protesters opposing corporate greed and corruption gathered in a public park in the financial district. The movement has since gone national, and Occupy Birmingham and Occupy Huntsville groups anchor the cause locally.

Cullman resident Stephen Sansing, one of two local organizers for Occupy Cullman, said he hopes to use the event as a jumping off point to raise awareness about corporate and political issues. The group has a rally planned tonight at 6 p.m., in the pavilion at Heritage Park.

“The plan is to be in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, fighting back against big banks and the financial system that allows companies to dump huge amounts of money into political campaigns,” Sansing said. “A lot of people in Cullman act like there is no world outside of here, and thought Occupy was a socialist hippie movement, and that’s not right at all. It’s about reforming, and we want the money to stay in the hands of the people, and not be held by all the corporations.”

At the inaugural rally tonight, Sansing plans to speak on state and local issues he believes could affect area residents.

“We’ll be talking about things like the Jefferson County bankruptcy, and the fact that some of Cullman’s water system has been privatized,” he said. “Plus, with Christmas coming up, another big part of this is encouraging people to shop locally, and keep their money here in the county.”

With the Occupy Wall Street movement carving deeper roots in large cities, Sansing said the Cullman rally is a way to generate more interest locally in the cause.

“We’re a very young movement right now, so we’re trying to do some educational outreach to draw in some of the older folks, who may not know all this is going on,” he said. “The local response, as far as online, has been pretty good, and Cullman is a pretty conservative area, so it can be hard to get folks interested in being progressive.  A lot of people don’t know what the movement is, so right now we’re in the educational phase.”

As has been the case nationwide, Sansing has turned to social media to promote the cause. The original Occupy Wall Street movement gained traction on Twitter with the hashtags “#OccupyWallStreet,” or “#OWS” which has trended in different areas regionally since the movement began.

“That has definitely been big for us,” Sansing said. “We’ve been using Facebook pages (http://www.facebook.com/OccupyCullman) (http://www.facebook.com/occupycullmanalabama), but now we’re trying to reach out to people who don’t get online, with flyers and things like that. We’re trying to get the rest of Cullman involved.”

Another organizer involved with Occupy Cullman, Jacob Hinkle, was unavailable for comment by deadline of this article.

* Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at trentm@cullmantimes.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.

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