By Erin Clifford
Lansing Star staff writer
Following the lead of others across the country and all over the world, Michigan residents gathered in Reutter Park last Friday night, Oct. 7, in peaceful protest against what they view as a severely unbalanced distribution of wealth in the United States. Mirroring the demonstrations in New York on Wall Street, the protesters are calling for an end to the influence money has within the government.
Mathew Lehmann drove from Alpena, MI to the city’s capitol because he believed there was the potential for change in Occupy Lansing. “One thing we could do as Americans is to take responsibility for America,” Lehmann said. “We need to start as close to home as possible, and go from there. We can’t all travel to New York.”
On Tuesday, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero came to the park to talk with those that set up camp.
Lehmann said he was very happy that the mayor made an appearance, and would like to see Governor Rick Snyder and hear his thoughts on the movement.
Josh LaVigne, the co-treasurer of this movement, said everyone came together without any formal organization backing their efforts. A member at the park described it as a “loosely organized global movement.”
“We saw how it worked [in Egypt], and we agreed … It was a general consensus that somebody needs to do something,” Lehmann said.
To others at the park, their main goal with the occupation is to take the money out of politics, and that it is the government’s responsibility to help the distribution of wealth in favor of the middle and lower classes. “If anything, we want to protect the government from corporate influence,” Lehmann said.
“Corporations are only allowed to give if they think it will improve shareholder profit,” LaVigne said, and he thinks removing that requirement would give people more leeway to work better.
“(Corporations) are not legally required to balance profit against environmental and social interest,” LaVigne said. “They’re (basically) required to be sociopaths.”
To some protesting, it is up to people to voice their opinions and make them heard in order to reach a consensus through the democratic process.
“These movements are a chance for people to come together and decide the future of the economy,” Lehmann said.
Reutter Park is located at the intersection of Capitol Rd. and Kalamazoo St. and will be the base for activists until the Occupy Lansing rally on Saturday, Oct. 15.