About three dozen supporters of what’s called Occupy Oahu showed up Saturday midday at the corner of Bethel and South Hotel streets in downtown Honolulu.

Their mission? To align themselves with a national protest movement that began last month on Wall Street in New York City.

“Occupy Oahu or Occupy Honolulu is just a start, just a beginning,” said local protester Garry Emard, who handed out fliers promoting groups involved with the NYC events. “But we will acknowledge that Wall Street has issued their declaration and we completely support them.”

Leaderless Movement

The Wall Street protests, now in their third week, are “demonstrations against income inequality, corporate greed, corruption and a list of other social ills,” according to a recent news report.

The protests differ from others in that they are open and “horizontally organized,” as one group, NYC General Assembly, puts it.

What all the groups agree on is that they represent the 99 percent of Americans who must raise their voices against the 1 percent of Americans who own most of the nation’s wealth.

Through social media like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, the movement has spread to other cities.

Last week protests were held on the Big Island. On Friday night, protesters gathered on High Street in Wailuku, Maui, and in downtown Honolulu as part of the monthly First Friday festivities.

The leaderless campaign is explained by this post Fridy morning on the Occupy Honolulu Facebook page:

To whom it matters to… I do not put my contact information on here because I am not the leader of this group. I am not the person who thought of the idea. I do not take any credit for anything that happens… I just know that we can all make a difference no matter how many people show up tomorrow or what happens tomorrow.

The 99 Percent Solution

The Occupy Oahu protest started around 11:30 a.m. Saturday, in the shaded area nestled between the Hawaii Theatre and Indigo Restaurant.

About three dozen protesters had gathered. Some carried signs that read “We are the 99 percent.” Another held up a sign featuring the words “Koch brothers” in a a circle with a slash — a reference to the billionaire brothers who have helped fund the national Tea Party movement.

One man brought his dog with a “Ron Paul for President” sign on its back.

Grace Agodong, an Oahu teacher, found out about Occupy Oahu through Facebook.

“I am part of the 99 percent, and I work very hard for a living and it is very frustrating to see my money just to get it taken away from me,” she told Civil Beat. “Some people claim, well, you’re not doing well because you’re lazy, and that’s far from the truth. I think I work as hard for my money as the next person, and I put a lot into society. I’m a teacher, so I am training the next generation.”

Agodong continued: “Yet, I see my money dwindling away very quickly, only to be snatched up, if you will, by the so-called 1 percent who seem to believe that they are entitled to having their hand in everyone’s pocket.”

Like Garry Emard, the young man with the fliers, Agodong said the group would decide what to do once they had assembled their own “general assembly” — a critical mass of protesters who would openly participate in the discussion.

Occupy Oahu’s Saturday protested was slated to run a full 12 hours.

“I don’t know long it will take,” said Emard. “Until we get things accomplished. I have heard other cities, it goes hours and hours on end.”

HPD On Hand

During the hour Civil Beat hung out at the corner of Bethel and Hotel, at least two plain-clothes representatives of the Honolulu Police Department were in attendance. Each were identifiable by armbands.

Duane Samson with HPD Civil Affairs said, “We’re here to just monitor and make sure they get their speech out there, their message, civilly.”

Samson said HPD did not expect the gathering to get out of hand.

Did HPD have a plan if it did?

“Yeah, but we always work with these groups,” he said. “They are always peaceful and civil. They don’t need a permit — they’re on the sidewalk.”

Occupy Oahu’s protest was set in a location frequented mostly by homeless people. Honolulu’s own corporate center, near Merchant and Bishop streets, was several blocks away.

Some protesters were there to call attention to the upcoming APEC summit, and several said they expected to participate in protests for the global summit.

The media showed up, too.

Here’s a post from a person named Mike Wright on the Occupy Oahu Facebook wall:

Expect the press, and be aware that there’s a good chance that certain media groups (i.e. Star-Advertiser) will try to twist what you tell them around and produce a biased report. Choose your words carefully!

At around 2:30 p.m., Civil Beat checked the Facebook account for updates and saw this post from a Hikaru Shinagawa:

Straight from Twitter: “RT @Rav_Bunneh About 100 people here at #occupyoahu which is awesome! v @AlohaArleen #ows”

Great now all you need is a media team and some coverage…

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