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Marchers occupy Gresham sidewalks

Group advocates shopping at local businesses
by: Jim Clark A dozen Occupy protesters march  in Gresham on Friday, lending support for local business and banks, rather than large corporations.

A dozen Occupy demonstrators marched around downtown Gresham Friday morning, Nov. 25, urging folks to patronize locally owned businesses.

Inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement that has swept the nation the past two months, Occupy Gresham organizers have chosen to take a lower key approach than other occupy groups, eschewing illegal camping and civil disobedience to concentrate on legal methods of protest.

Like other occupy groups, the Gresham demonstrators say they want the country to examine how its economic and political systems favor the wealthy over everyone else, or 'the 99 percent.'

The Occupy Gresham group's members carried signs emblazoned with slogans such as 'Show the Love: Shop Local' as they marched from Main City Park, down Powell Boulevard, up Eastman Parkway to Division Street and then down Hood Avenue back to the park. The march drew a small police presence, but there were no incidents.

Car drivers passing by the demonstrators along their route seemed curious, indifferent or supportive as they honked their horns.

Lisa Cozzetto participated in the march along with her husband, Chris, her son, Dax, 15, and her daughter, Kara, 4. She says she wants folks to keep their money in the community by shopping and banking locally rather than spending cash at stores such as Wal-Mart.

'We can basically grow the local economy, keep our money here and improve what we have here,' she says.

Her son, a student at Gresham-Barlow Web Academy, adds that he opposes 'corporate greed' and onerous banking fees.

Meanwhile, Terry Murphy, a former account executive for a transportation company, says he has been working part-time since he was laid off two years ago and is tired of seeing the country run for the benefit of the wealthy. Like other demonstrators, he says he hopes folks will patronize locally owned businesses during the holiday shopping season.

'I'm torn because I believe in the American dream of starting your own business,' he says. 'But it's impossible to compete with the big box stores such as Wal-Mart.'

Nicole Murren, a recent Portland State University graduate, studied business management and says it was only after college she learned about cooperative and employee-owned businesses, as opposed to profit-centered businesses.

Murren interned at a food cooperative in Portland and urges folks to support such enterprises since they benefit local farmers and sell 'fair trade' products, which made with an eye to safe labor conditions, decent wages and environmentally friendly processes.

'It's really important to maintain (economic) diversity in the local community,' she adds.

Occupy Gresham members plan to hold general assembly meetings at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 26, at the Center for the Arts Plaza, 401 N.E. Second St., and at 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, at Main City Park, 219 S. Main Ave.

For more information, visit occupygresham.org or search for 'Occupy Gresham' on Facebook.com.