The anti-corporate protest started by Occupy Wall Street in New York City has spread across the country to include cities like Seattle, Tacoma and now Federal Way.
Occupy Federal Way held its inaugural gathering last Saturday at the 320th Library with six local residents. Unlike their big-city brethren, the Federal Way group is forgoing tents and camping in favor of community discussion, said organizer Randall Smith.
“We’re really not out to break anything or do anything that’s going to annoy local officials,” Smith said of Occupy Federal Way. “The fire’s been lit for a while. I’ve been saying for a long long time that we’ve got to get the attention of more people.”
Smith has participated in Occupy Tacoma activities for the past month, whether through marching or standing on sidewalks with a cardboard sign. Although he has yet to camp out, Smith praised the few dozen people who are committed to Occupy Tacoma each night.
A main slogan started by the Occupy Wall Street protesters is “We are the 99 percent,” which refers to the difference between the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans and the rest of the nation.
The goal for Occupy Federal Way is to further localize the movement’s message — and bring more Federal Way residents on board.
“Everybody has their own reason for being there,” Smith said. “Sometimes we just gotta turn off the TV media and use this Internet that’s bestowed upon us to do research and make up our own minds, and not let (media pundits) make up our minds for us.”
Libby Bennett, 28, is among the handful of Federal Way residents who attended the first meeting Nov. 12. The catalyst for Bennett’s involvement stems from frustration with her insurance company.
In August 2010, Bennett was involved in an accident that later required multiple mental and physical treatments. At the time, she had car insurance but no medical insurance. The event kicked off a chain reaction of ailments that culminated in life-saving surgery for Bennett in April. Her family, which was once nearly debt-free, now sits more than $100,000 in the hole.
“We were in a good place until this happened,” said Bennett, adding that Occupy Federal Way is a place for residents to channel their frustration toward financial injustice. “My story is just one of millions… It’s not about me anymore. It’s about my neighbors that are hurting.”
Bennett has been participating in Occupy Tacoma and appreciates the camaraderie.
“I know they get it when I say I can’t answer the phone because bill collectors are calling me,” she said. “I was let down by the very people that I paid every month to protect me from a situation like this. They had a bottom line that was more important than getting me the help that I needed.”
She said the Occupy Federal Way group’s purpose goes beyond Federal Way.
“In a nutshell, we are a group that is coming together because we are at rock bottom,” she said. “We are a stepping stone to making a change, and that change is still being defined and determined every day. I want to see the community pull together and realize that things are not right.”
Check it out
Occupy Federal Way’s next meeting will run 3 to 5 p.m. Nov. 19 at Poverty Bay Coffee Company, 1108 S. 322nd Place, Suite A. Email OccupyFederalWay@gmail.com or visit Occupy Federal Way on Facebook.