There were ominous lookouts stationed in the upper floors over the Cornerstone Bar and Grill downtown last week … police officers taking pictures and video.
Roanoke police Chief Chris Perkins said “anytime we are aware of an event such as the ‘occupy’ movement that has created issues in other communities, it is prudent to document the actions of those involved as well as our actions, as a matter of procedure for potential court purposes. It is important to remember that no matter how just the cause, human emotions are involved and something calm and peaceful can escalate quickly into something that is not calm and peaceful.”
The Roanoke movement first appeared on Facebook, joining in solidarity with Manhattan’s “Occupy Wall Street” movement that started a month ago in front of the New York Stock Exchange. It has grown to thousands with many camping out at Tompkins Park.
The common thread that has broken out in other cities across the nation is a loathing for greedy corporations and expanding economic disparity. Protesters claim that 99% of them are without jobs, beholden to large amounts of debt and/or underemployed.
Occupy Roanoke’s website has a mission statement: “to bring attention locally and worldwide to the greed, corruption and loss of rights in America. To rightfully put back ‘We The People’ in the U.S. Constitution.”
Friday, 10 supporters came together at Roanoke City Market on the symbolic “Wall Street” and sang the national anthem. They held American flags and handmade signs. Roanoke Police Officer E. R. Pendleton just smiled as they assembled and said he was “just going in [the Market building] to eat lunch.”
Adam Cohen had called for a “flash mob” at noon. Cohen, who showed up early, said he is not the leader of the group; “there are no leaders – it’s a group consensus type of thing.”
Bill Carder, former Roanoke City council member and former Downtown Roanoke Inc. president, held one end of a large American flag. Carder said, “the people are really upset about the system being broken.” He was particularly perturbed at Congress’ inability to function. “We should have universal healthcare – every other modern country in the world has it,” he said.
“Term limits would prevent entrenchment in the political bubble and corruption by lobbyists,” said Carder.
Cohen accused Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell of cavorting with billionaire GOP donors David and Charles Koch. He claimed that the Governor’s media reported a Colorado meeting with them in June that he says led to money being donated to Virginia Republican campaigns.
Another rally is planned for Saturday from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. in Elmwood Park.