Occupy Richmond group convenes at Kanawha Plaza

The worldwide Occupy movement assembled in Monroe Park this weekend to organize and then march downtown, giving public voice to their many oppositions to a host of economic and tax issues. An account of what happened, and what the local movement plans to do.

Around 300 people assembled in Monroe Park late afternoon Saturday to take part in a local gathering of the national Occupy movement. Occupy began with the initial and ensuing Occupy Wall Street rally and has since inspired similar protest events nationwide–as well as in Europe and Asia. Meeting at 4pm, the age of the attendees ranged from early twenties to those in their mid-sixties.

“There’s something immoral about the [financial] structure,” said Jane McNeil, 65. “It’s not right.” McNeil took part in the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War protests in the 1960’s while living in California. Although many say that the Occupy movements spring out of Liberal political philosophy, McNeil maintains “it’s not political,” that the movement does not restrict those who participate based on political affiliation. She joined the Occupy Richmond event to support the idea of communal distribution. “The word ‘share’ doesn’t exist in people’s vocabulary,” said McNeil. She says that we are taught, by and large, that it is a “virtue to give.” But, McNeil said, it’s largely felt that any sort of government munificence rewards “lazy bums.”

Cruxien Farmer, Anwen Farmer, Chris Farmer, and Kimmy Certa

One Fulton Hill couple, Kimmy Certa and Chris Farmer, brought their children, 7 and 12 years old, to the event. Their youngest conceived of and created a sign that read I Share. Do You?. “We’re exhausted,” said Kimmy Certa. “We’re hard workers trying to raise our family.”

Farmer lost his job in 2008. He’s since been “under-employed,” working part time. “We had to choose to pay the mortgage or buy food,” Certa said. So overwhelmed with expenses, the family has filed for bankruptcy. Certa said that they do not own, nor seek, luxury household items such as large flat-screen televisions. “We live modestly,” she said, but cannot afford to pay for their mortgage, food, and essential services in total.

“We didn’t get our bailouts,” said Certa, referring to the government-backed loans provided to various banking institutions in the late 2000s, institutions that many feel are responsible for the current financial calamities taking place world-wide. She said that she and her husband have discussed with their children the financial issues that have afflicted worldwide markets and people. Certa said that their children were initially skeptical to attend because they feared that people would be arrested.

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Event organizers held a democratic vote to decide where they would convene. Monument Avenue and Kanawha Plaza were the options, with the Kanawha Plaza having been decided upon around 6pm. City Councilman Bruce Tyler was in attendance to watch the event, although he maintained that he was a disinterested party, attending only for observational and curiosity purposes.

Several of the event organizers were upset because of a permit that they claimed to have been vocally promised by Richmond Police Captain William Smith was not issued. The organizers maintained that they had been vocally assured that they would be granted a permit on Saturday to occupy whichever location was voted on by the marchers. They said that Mayor Dwight Jones, however, decided late Friday afternoon that no special events permit or permission would be given to the protesters.

The marchers felt that this was an example of senior local government officials trying to mitigate the influence of the protest. Captain William Smith, however, said that no special event permit (a document issued by the City) can supersede existing ordinances. He said that, because a City statute prohibits the individuals from occupying public parks after dark, no permit could allow for that type of assemblage. He said, however, that someone like the Mayor could issue special permission (which is distinct from a City-issued permit) for an event to supplant existing ordinances (e.g. a midnight vigil). It seems that Mayor Jones’ decision late Friday affirmed that he would issue no special permission for the Occupy Richmond event, which some in the movement misinterpreted to mean that the city had tried to suppress the movement. A city official informed me that no member of the Occupy Richmond group had filed for an official permit that would have granted them park access up until dusk, when all Richmond parks close.

Once it was decided that Kanawha Plaza would be the location for, what protesters referred to as not a protest but an occupation, about two thirds of the original crowd marched to the plaza. Among the chants shouted as they marched downtown were: “What’s outrageous? / Wall Street wages” ; “All night. All day / Occupy R-V-A” ; and “We are the ninety-nine percent.”

The group arrived to the presence of several police officers, and a printed letter tapped to the Kanawha Plaza park sign from Larry Miller, Operations Manager for the City of Richmond, reaffirming that all of Richmond’s park close at sunset.

Working with police, the protesters moved to the sidewalk at 7:30pm, the time in which police said the night-time hours would begin, avoiding the violation of the city’s ordinance that prevents assembly at night.

Captain Smith said that was an ongoing dialogue between himself and the protesters “throughout the week and today.” He also said that the protest organizers had been professional, had done their part to facilitate a “peaceful and non-violent protest.” Danielle Lewis, point person for the occupation’s legal team and University of Richmond student, said that “Capt. Smith has been incredibly cooperative.”

Select protesters remained at Kanawha Plaza throughout the night while remaining on the sidewalk. The Occupy Richmond participants hope that the occupation of Kanawha Plaza will continue for several days.


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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

Notice: Comments that are not conducive to an interesting and thoughtful conversation may be removed at the editor’s discretion.

  1. You can’t force people to act right. They either do or they don’t.

    I don’t expect you to share anything with me. I’ve never taken a bailout. Everything I have earned has been from the work that I’ve done.

    Please go back to work and help improve our economy. Yes there are jobs to be had, they might not pay what you want and they might be different than what you did before but there are jobs.

    also, please vote for a president who will balance the budget and will stop putting us in terrible debt as a nation.

  2. Jim, I am so glad that you never had a bail out. Never had any public education, was never taught by a teacher, and never drove on any road or bridge. You never rely on safe food or a safe work environment. You don’t take any medicines approved by the FDA.

    I am also so glad that you do not expect the police to guard your property or the fire department to save your burning house.

    And I am so sorry that we voted for Bush twice. Without that travesty can you imagine what the surplus he started with would be right now?

    And are you really defending those who make millions in bonuses that pay less in taxes than you do? That took the TARP funds so that commercial and personal loans be approved and then did not invest that money?

    Really? This is your stance?

  3. Jeff E. on said:

    I think this country definitely needs more of a community spirit but true charity can only be done by free will, not forced through government taxation and regulation. If the Occupy people were pitching to Americans and not the Federal government, I’d be behind them 100%.

  4. Mr Case on said:

    while the disparity between the wealthy class and the middle and poorer classes is gaping and evident.
    these people didnt make the laws or the rules. Washington Did.
    Go Occupy DC.

    and maybe Mr Farmer would have better luck finding a better job if he didnt look like ZZ Top.
    professionalism goes a long way. i know it sucks that we have to conform to the mans standard to get the man to give us a job, but thats called life. of course if it wasnt so hard for a small fry to start a business with a good idea and a little backing he could just start his own place of employment. BUT, the folks in DC who make the laws make it harder and harder every year to allow for the little guy to compete.
    so, go, enjoy your underemployment and misplaced blame and anger, im sure its going to be real productive.

  5. Scott Burger on said:


    + No more bank bailouts!

  6. Apparently if you shave your beard but can’t coherently type a paragraph you can still get a good job.

  7. michele on said:

    Matt: driving on a publicly funded road, attending public school, etc are NOT “handouts” for Jim b/c he paid taxes for them. people are free to gather, occupy, chant, or protest however they please, thanks to our wonderful civil liberties in this country. and I am free to ignore them as I drive past them on my way to work. where i earn a paycheck, and pay taxes. c’est la vie!

  8. I appreciate this article.

    Slight correction– I think they intend to occupy Kanawha Plaza for much longer than “several days.”

  9. Michelle,

    Fingers up!

  10. Kristy on said:

    I went to Occupy Wall Street. I am a full time student, and work a part time job. Not everyone attending these things are jobless. And anyway, just because you don’t have a job doesn’t mean your lazy, and just because you have a job doesn’t mean you’r hard working.

    Those telling people to just get jobs: If someone’s been looking for a job for months and been turned down for everything, doesn’t have money and becomes homeless, how do you expect them to get a job? No home = no shower, no shaving, no nice suit. I may be about to face this situation myself as I’ve just lost my home. I’m looking for another job and hopefully will be moving into a trailer park as that’s the best I can afford right now. I’m just thankful I at least have enough to be able to do that. Some people don’t. College here is so ridiculously expensive, if you’re not rich you get to spend the first 10 years to maybe the rest of your life in debt trying to pay off student loans. Or you can skip college and have trouble finding jobs for the rest of your life because so many people are in the same boat as you that all the jobs that don’t need college degrees are taken. What kind of choice is that? I may have to quit school just so I can work enough to be able to afford to live somewhere. All our money is debt based anyway. If you hold a dollar in your hand, all that means is that you OWE a dollar. Our money is printed arbitrarily.

    We need to separate money from politics! All of our representatives are bought! They no longer represent the majority, the represent the 1% that gives them money! It’s BS.

  11. You rock Matt! couldn’t have said it better myself. Maybe Jim and Michele would like to turn us into a third world country, where there are only the very well off and the poor. Then our schools could just close, our police depts. shrink, and our infastructure crumble and there will be no real chance of competing in the global market because Jim, Michele and our government want to move backwards.Greed got us here people.


  12. Kristy,
    I guess I wont have to worry about college costs for my kids, recent news reports state that colleges are now making teir selections by choosing applicants that can afford to pay full tuitions. Like I said, third world policies, soon we just won’t have to bother thinking about educating our children:(

  13. Julie on said:

    The problem with the notion of taxation and “wealth redistribution” is not the concept but the execution. Do you really trust politicians with your money? My husband works for the Army, and everything they do is grossly inefficient if not outright jacked-up. Our tax dollars at work. I get tired of hearing righties tout big business and lefties tout big government, and even Kristy talking about politicians being owned by the 1%…when the politicians and the business leaders are ONE AND THE SAME. Go look at the resumes of some of our political leaders, only the rich run for office and/or get elected. If a little guy runs, all we see on the news is “he can’t possibly be qualified.” And we buy it. We vote these bloated hogs into office, time and again, and guarantee that they continue their fat lifestyles. And then we go pay money for entertainment by celebrities who provide no real useful contribution to society whatsoever. I don’t have a problem with anyone getting rich, if they earn it by doing something worthwhile. But in my book, my kid’s middle school teacher should be the one in a mansion, driving a Bentley. Or the guy who climbs towers to keep my lights on. People who actually do something besides sit on ass, or look pretty while whining, for a living. And since we, the people, continue to support, perpetuate, and subsidize the lifestyles of the rich yet worthless, we the people are the ones who are going to have to wake up and vote–with our ballots, our dollars, and our voices.

  14. Charles on said:

    I work 40-60hrs a week and Im paid for 40hrs regardless. Im blessed t have my job. Im a conservative Christian in the socially conservative sense.
    I have no representation in this govt. None are Christian, all have Superpacs or C-4 anonymous and unlimited contributions from foreign corporations or globalists. This is treason. Many of my friends were hard working construction workers who now have lost their jobs to illegal immigrants who work for six dollars an hour.
    Im all for capitalism, if it is regulated, fair, and favors AMERICA and no one else. The WTO, BRICS, China all own our government.
    This country WILL NOT survive without a constitutional amendment with the following key points:
    1) No corporation is a person. People within a corp have 1 vote and not more.
    2)Campaign financing donations cannot exceed 2000 per individual. Period. Accepting money outside of this is bribery punishable with 25 to life. Money is NOT free speech.
    3) No court or body outside of the US can violate our soveriegnty. Involvement in the WTO is illegal and any fines against the US for tariffs will not be honored.
    Any TRUE American right or left will support this unless they are so deluded by media that they can’t see how it needs to be America and Americans first.
    I am the 99%, I support the Occupy movement if it will support this common ground. If it goes too left with outright socialism or goes too far right like the Tea Party, I will not support it.

  15. Bob Johnson on said:

    This is what we get for a generation of Americans who believe that it is their constitutional right to be entitled to a job that they like, pays top dollar, does not require hard work, comes with French style liberties like a 4 day work week, 6 weeks vacations, full medical coverage, no accountability, and guaranteed employment without regard to meritocracy or performance. It is no wonder that China and India are eating our lunch, while we fight amongst ourselves and self destruct. The greatest generation has turned over the country to the lost generation. Wake up America. We are governing to the lowest common denominator, and the result will be mediocrity, loss of competitiveness, and high unemployment for years to come. Stop complaining. Expect less and do more!

  16. @matt- the TARP funds weren’t intended to increase lending (more recent programs were). The TARP funds were intended to stabilize banks and give the public enough confidence (ironic huh?) to prevent runs on the bank or the stock price.

    @michele- I see where you’re going, but its hard to argue the roads aren’t a subsidy as the federal infrastructure bank is broke and the local governments depend on state and federal dollars to even maintain their current roads much less build new ones. (some would argue that’s because our system is unsustainable http://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2011/10/6/the-big-ideas.html)

  17. “We are governing to the lowest common denominator, and the result will be mediocrity, loss of competitiveness, and high unemployment for years to come. Stop complaining. Expect less and do more!”

    You’re contradicting yourself all over the place. The occupy movement is against the race to the bottom that corporate greed has established as the norm. In less than a half decade, corporations have undercut everything that intelligent, hardworking Americans have fought for over the past centuries. The protesters are the ones that are actually doing something, stepping outside of a comfort zone and trying to wake people up to the fact that our country got sold out.

    I have two jobs. I work sixty-plus hours per week and if anybody tells me that I am sitting around expecting something undeserved then they are deluded. I stand with the Occupy movement and I have spent the night in that park because this is something that all decent, hardworking Americans should stand with. If you oppose the Occupy movement, you oppose everybody who lost their house, their job, and their hope because of unchecked corporate greed and government collusion. And if you oppose them, then you need to look in a mirror and ask, as John Lennon put it, how you sleep at night.

  18. The Occupy Wall Street Movement is Morhpeus holding the two pills in “The Matrix.” Will you take the blue pill and keep believing in the dream of unbridled capitalism, industry, and never-ending growth? Or will you dare to take the red pill, face the truth, and resist?

  19. Charles on said:

    Again. I here clowns belittling this movement as “hippies” with no job. I have a job, probably work harder than most. I have a home, and pay my debts. I never was nor am I a hippie.
    This is media propaganda designed to discredit the righteous call for an end to unlimited campaign contributions from china, saudi arabia, and isreal along with home grown multinational corporatists.
    Im a conservative, and I encourage other conservatives to get on board and stop defending the status quo.
    Read my previous post, this is the one core issue. Do it not and America WILL fall either to socialists or a neofascist corporate state.

  20. “. If you oppose the Occupy movement, you oppose everybody who lost their house, their job, and their hope because of unchecked corporate greed and government collusion. ”

    Therein lies the crux of the problem, your with us or against us. Good enough reason for me not to be with you. I believe Occupy Richmond leads us farther from solutions and further divides us as a society. Join O.R. if you want to, but don’t castigate the rest of us who choose not to join you. You don’t represent us and you certainly don’t speak for the 99%.

  21. I’m actually stunned by how civil these comments have been so far.

    Good for you, internet, you’ve restrained the crazies.

  22. Angelique on said:

    If you want a president who is not corrupt, not greedy, unwaivering & honest, then vote RON PAUL 2012. There is a reason the media ignores Ron Paul & that’s because they don’t stand to profit from him being elected.

  23. Bob Johnson on said:

    While I respect you for your opinion and for holding down two jobs, saying that I oppose anyone who lost a job or a house is in and of itself delusional. Paul is right, we live in a us vs them society and I will add class warfare at it’s finest. And oh, by the way, I do have a reference point. My mother grew up slaving for the Russians as a seamstress in occupied Germany. My uncle was killed by the same Russians for intervening on behalf of a young German girl who was being abused. I have lived in a socialist country, so I know what it looks like, and trust me, we are on the way. I do not oppose peaceful protest, as a matter of fact, it is wonderful that we have free speech. But the problem is, no one wants to have civil dialogue just blame. Can’t drive a car looking in the rear view mirror. When we have leaders who cannot do anything else other than excel at the blame game, that sets the tone for the rest of us. It’s called pandering. As far as Charlie goes, yes let’s blame the foreigners! Let’ go back to taking an isolationist stance. That did wonders for us after the Great Depression. And they say….history repeats itself.

  24. I believe the reason that so many people are confused by the Occupy Movement is the fact that there are a multitude of reasons that we are out there. The one thing we can agree on is that our government is not working for us! I am so tired of the dead lock in Washington, especially when it comes to any proposal of making the extremely wealthy pay a their fair share. Treatening to shut down the government or just not do anything at all to protect the interest of that few percentage of people that have been reaping the benefits of this country and are still doing so is ludicrous. We need to make clear that we will not keep signing their paychecks if this does not stop. The movement needs to organize some key talking points with our common ground in order to get the point across.

  25. kent armistead on said:

    The Right of public assembly is a fundamental guarantee of the Constitution, as is the Right to protest. Our Nation was and is based on this.For Christ sake, our Government constantly promotes similar civil disobedience, throughout the World (Egypt, Libya….).
    How the heel can these Rights now be denied, in Richmond??????

  26. kent armistead on said:

    What in the hell are we hoping to accomplish?? The Police Dept. has been very helpful,despite the fact that we have made it difficult. From the beginning, scenarios have been imaginized,and talked about:that do not exist!!
    Stop it!!!!!! This is a peaceful protest,for now,to bring about fundamental change.That possible change, at the moment, is previously un-real.
    The Police have tried to help,so far. Do not abuse the opportunity.

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