“I’m one of the 99,” he said to a friendly teller, referring to the rallying cry of the Occupy Wall Street protests. “It’s time to make a switch.”
Smith, a 62-year-old military veteran who resides in Minden, joined several other Occupy Reno protesters for Move Your Money Day, a national campaign that encourages people to put their savings with locally owned banks and credit unions rather than corporate entities.
Smith said it was this kind of action, rather than rhetoric alone, that could help the Occupy movements across the country truly gain traction – as well as punish big banks.
Unlike other Occupy movements that have spread from Wall Street, including forced evictions of protesters in Atlanta and Oakland, Calif., the Reno version has proven effective in its organization and willingness to work with local authorities to ensure a peaceful, long-term solution. This includes acquiring a permit to occupy the derelict, abandoned Moana Swimming Pool facility for at least 90 days.
The Occupy movement has been criticized for lacking leadership and a central message. Some protesters believe this is a strength, allowing the movement to remain open to all and far-ranging in its goals. Others, like Smith, see it as a detriment.
Smith has argued for the protesters to better identify their goals, take more substantial action and ultimately grow from a ragtag group of frustrated citizens into, perhaps, a new voting bloc that can impact national elections.
Smith even called out a fellow protester wearing a Guy Fawkes (the 17th Century British radical who plotted to firebomb the English Parliament before his plan was foiled) costume, which has become a symbol of the Occupy movement, telling him to remove his mask and show his face in solidarity with others.
Later, Saturday’s protest against the country’s big banks proceeded along Virginia Street.
Ben, a 27-year-old student who declined to give his last name, said the movement must grow in order to sustain itself.
“We’ve all been bitching in the closet,” he said. “The time has come to air our grievances in public.”
As for the message of the movement, Ben had a clear idea of what it should be all about: inequality.
“We are trying to educate the public about social, economic and political injustices,” he said.