Occupiers come from all walks of life

12 years ago

  PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Citizens with varied backgrounds have come together in recent months, forming Occupy Aroostook — an organization designed to unify individuals who have come to believe more should and can be done in our nation to bring equality to all through a redistribution of wealth, better health care and better pay for a job well done, among other improvements.
    Contrary to what some have come to believe — that Occupiers are unemployed bums who don’t want to work — those here in Aroostook represent middle class America at its core, comprised of businesspeople, educators and others who work or go to school on a daily basis yet find it more and more of a struggle to make ends meet.
“We have a wide variety of members. I am a retired English instructor from MSSM. Gail and Stan Maynard have a herd of Highland beef cattle and Gail is planning to run for the state legislature in the upcoming election. Shelly Mountain and her husband own a small trucking business, hauling logs, and she is a recent UMPI graduate. Zack Lowry is a high school senior planning to major in political science in college,” said Alice Bolstridge, organizer of Occupy Aroostook.
Members also include retirees, local businesspeople and a pharmacist, among others.
“I can’t say with certainty that any of our members are unemployed, but we are all 99-percenters and affected in numerous ways by economic and political injustice,” she said.
“All of us have to pay the increasing costs of basic necessities — food, fuel, health care — and most of us have not seen an increase in income for several years. In my case, my income taxes and my property tax went up last year, so I have less income,” said Bolstridge.
Like their counterparts across the U.S., Bolstridge said Occupy Aroostook members are concerned about how corporations seem to have more control over elected officials than the taxpayers who elected them do.
“All of us share a concern for how much political policies and decisions are influenced by corporate money and profits. One example is health care. Many working people are going without health care because they can’t afford the high insurance premiums while the insurance companies continue to make huge profits. And neither the Affordable Health Care Act nor the new state health care law does anything to reduce the health insurance costs,” said Bolstridge. “Premiums are actually going up.”
As long as there is an interest, Bolstridge said the group will continue to meet and protest.
“We plan to continue indefinitely to meet each Saturday and assemble after the march. We have talked quite a bit about goals and our focus,” said Bolstridge, noting debate continues on what the group should set for goals, beyond “our general ones of economic and political justice.”
For now, Bolstridge said all decisions have been made by consensus.
“We do agree to encourage each of us to continue to advocate as individuals for specific goals we feel strongly about, including: educational equality, universal single-payer health care, workers’ rights, fair-share taxes for the rich, better regulation of the financial industry, decoupling money from politics, (corporations are not persons), stop government subsidies to companies earning high profits, etc.,” said Bolstridge.
Each week, the group meets and marches along Main Street in Presque Isle, ending with a gathering at UMPI’s Campus Center to discuss goals and future plans. While marching, motorists have been heard honking their horns in support, while pedestrians stop to chat and share comments on what they feel is needed to make a better future for all.
“I have been very gratified, even surprised, by the public response. I did not expect so many expressions of support. I expected more opposition. UMPI’s union voted unanimously to issue a statement in support of Occupy Aroostook. There is a lot of support on Facebook,” said Bolstridge, noting in addition to Facebook, Occupy Aroostook now has a website as well: http://occupyaroostook.wordpress.com.
For more information on Occupy Aroostook, visit www.facebook.com/#!/pages/ OccupyAroostook/312067425476344 or e-mail occupyaroostook@gmail .com.