The turnout wasn’t big, but gatherers for Tuesday’s Occupy LaGrange protest said getting the message out is what matters.
“Even if there are only five to 10 people here, people will notice,” said Scott Smith, who helped organize the demonstration on the square. “This is about asserting our right to free speech, handing out information and encouraging people to become more engaged in local politics.”
Alex LeMieux, who said he has long engaged in peaceful protests, said he wasn’t part of the Occupy movement, but believes that people have the right to openly voice their opinions. He felt the Occupy movement was about putting government “back in the hands of the people.”
“The constitution guarantees us the pursuit of happiness and freedom,” he said. “I think our forefathers had it right. We just need to keep a grip on it and keep it alive.”
Elliott Smith, vice chairman of the Troup County Democratic Party, held a sign stating “I am a Christian and … I occupy.” He said people have become too focused on themselves and lost the sense of community and helping others who are less fortunate.
“Particularly in LaGrange, where we call ourselves a Christian community, we don’t seem to extend the hand of Christian fellowship,” Elliott Smith said. “… I think people in this country and around the world should get better than they have.”
Beth Farrar said she was at the square because “people have lost their voice.” Government is motivated by money and corporations rather than the public’s wishes.
“We’re supposed to be by the people and for the people,” Farrar said. “If you never speak up, nobody will know what you have to say.”
Jamaica Johson said she took the day off work to come demonstrate on the square. She pointed out that her signs promoted peace and unity.
“We’re simply here to show the people that even in 2012, people still have the right to protest, and making my voice heard is my purpose,” she said. “Stand up for what you believe in. Whether people agree or disagree disagree with you, at least you’ve told someone.”
Ric Chambers, a LaGrange resident with a counseling practice in Newnan, said he was motivated to come out because he’s seen a shift in the problems cited by clients.
“I’ve been a counselor for about 30 years, and more and more of the problems I’m seeing with people who come in now are caused by the current social structure and economic system,” he said. “It used to be that people came because of personal issues.”
Chambers said the Occupy movement is “changing the conversation” of politics, which is necessary. Politics have made people too divisive and the movement is about getting everyone in one boat, despite political differences.
Scott Smith said some people who disagreed with the Occupy movement came up to the group Tuesday. He said they just have different ideas of patriotism.
“We see this as a patriotic act,” Scott Smith said. “We see this as what patriotism looks like.”