DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The estimated 500 protestors who crowded the block abutting the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas Thursday chanted their talking points in unison, rallying against corporate greed and social inequality.
“Banks got bailed out, we got sold out,” the group shouted.
“Tell me what democracy looks like,” started a call, “This is what democracy looks like!” closed the response.
The 500 participants marched about a half-mile from Pike Park to the Federal Reserve Bank to show solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, the New York protest that began three weeks ago to stand up to inequality among the classes, in addition to a host of other economic ills.
Similar stagings are cropping up in cities across the nation. On Thursday, supporters in Texas got to show their stripes: Occupations were launched in Houston, Austin, San Antonio and Dallas.
“You are here, you are the 99 percent, and you will march!” shouted McKenzie Wainwright, 23, from a gazebo facing the crowd at Pike Park shortly before the march began. Her fellow protestors erupted into applause.
The 99 is meant to represent “the other 99,” or, the 99 percent of Americans who control less wealth than the remaining 1 percent, which is defined as “the banks, the mortgage industry, the insurance industry … the important ones,” on the group’s Tumblr.
“This isn’t a liberal movement,” said Cordell Cameron, a spokesman for the Dallas protest. “It’s something that’s affecting Republicans and Democrats … we have a goal that we can all agree on and we should concentrate on that.”
The leaderless, populist movement sprouted its legs on social media.
In advance of Thursday’s march, Cameron and other organizers participated in meetings – 100 people attended one early in the week, Cameron said – that were organized and promoted using Twitter, Facebook and TinyChat, a public chat room website.
“Well it’s been paramount for sure,” Cameron said of the online resources. “Without it, we wouldn’t exist.”
Before the march, protestors were asked to use the hashtag #OccupyDallas on Twitter and photo-sharing site Flickr, so supporters in other cities and those who are curious about the movement can follow from home, or from their phones.
Volunteers coordinated a route with police, and urged smokers to pick up their cigarette butts and other participants not to leave trash behind. On the half-mile march, many participants thanked officers as the mass of protestors snaked forward.
“If we see anyone breaking the law, and it’s not an act of civil disobedience, we are going to report it to the police immediately,” Cameron said Wednesday. “We’re not going to let anyone come out and vandalize, pollute, break things … we’re not going to tolerate it.”
Cameron said the group’s goal was to rally the troops, if you will, in order to bring the so-called other 99 together and wake up the rest of the country. As such, few solutions were offered for myriad ills the protestors were so lionized by.
But participants seemed OK with that: As one marcher’s sign put it, “Hello Goliath, Meet David.”
The voices of the Occupy Dallas protest
To illustrate that, businessmen in pressed suits walked alongside younger marchers in tattered jeans, chanting together. Labor unions were also present during the Dallas march, adding what some thought to be an additional air of legitimacy.
“The model for all this is the Arab Spring,” said Gene Lantz, press secretary for the Dallas AFL-CIO, which openly supports the Occupy movement. “They had very large demonstrations primarily led by students, just as this is, but you didn’t really see the change start until labor took a hand.”
But experts say the movement’s aimlessness could mean consequences later in its development. With a wide-span of social and economic frustrations, the group risks muddling its message and creating restlessness and frustration among its ranks, said Dr. Kimi King, an associate political science professor at the University of North Texas.
“It’s the age old problem of persons who want to bring about social change using freedom of assembly and speech as a mechanism,” she said. “You still need to have a structured approach to how you’re going to do your problem solving. You still need leaders if you’re going to build that social change.”
During Thursday’s march, the chants and homemade signs served as bullet-points, of sorts, for what participants hoped to express. Many marchers had different priorities and reasons for coming, often based on trudging through a difficult economic sector that’s more focused on profits, they say, than creating additional jobs.
“I’m unemployed, and I was buying a house when I got laid off, and I’m trying to support two children,” said John Evans, 24, clutching a sign that read, ‘We can’t eat money.’ “And the (Federal Reserve) is printing more and more of my money, it’s got to stop.”
Evans, an oil field worker before being laid off, traveled 120 miles from Graham to express himself. Like many others, he said he was willing to stay “as long as it takes.”
That “it” varied for participants. For Evans, that meant “wrestling the monetary control from the Federal Reserve to Congress.”
Single mother Brenda Marrufo, 26, of Garland, also said she’d be staying “as long as it takes.” But her “it” was more footed in awareness.
“This is something that’s just the spark,” she said. “We want to open the eyes of our fellow Americans to this corruption. We’re just Americans who want a better world for our children.”
And early in the afternoon, those willing to “stay as long as it takes” took their first step in doing so: They agreed to amass at the JFK Memorial at 7 p.m. and hunker down there for the evening.
“As much as the Democrats say Republicans are responsible for this and Republicans say Democrats are responsible for that, the folks who are down on the street protesting just want accountability,” Dr. King said.