A loosely affiliated group of 30 some people have been quietly meeting, more or less each week, in Jackson County on the heels of an Occupy Sylva event held last October.
This confederacy of the self-dubbed “99 percent” has morphed into Occupy Western North Carolina. While Asheville has its own Occupy group, OccupyWNC has become a catch-all for the counties west of Buncombe, bringing in residents from Waynesville, Franklin and farther west who expressed a desire to get involved following the Occupy Sylva rally.
“This is a much broader coalition than just Sylva,” member Allen Lomax, a Sylva resident and Waynesville-based real estate agent who also helps local, small investors connect with local, small businesses or entrepreneurs. “It has become much bigger than that.”
Don’t expect the tents or protests in WNC that you’ve seen elsewhere, or a visible police presence to ensure things stay calm. But, you also shouldn’t let the quiet nature of OccupyWNC’s gatherings fool you. These folks are dead serious about change. And they seem prepared to help make some noise, soon, to get just that. They are seeking results through “all possible nonviolent means of action.”
Gary Stamper, a Whittier resident who moved from Seattle to WNC three-and-a-half years ago, said he believes it’s time for change. And, that the nation is ripe for change.
“My outrage about what is going on is that we are losing all of our freedoms and rights. I can’t sit idly by and let it go,” Stamper said.
Stamper believes that bridges can be built to other groups, including the Tea Party and Republicans, and that the majority of Americans can work together for needed change.
“We have far more in common than not,” he said, adding that anything meaningful that happens will “start with individuals.”
“Really, we are just 100 percent,” Stamper said. “We are all in this together.”
While the OccupySylva rally last fall was organized under the auspices of the county’s Democratic party, the Democratic mantle of that event seems to have lifted, though there are certainly Democrats actively involved.
OccupyWNC is a self-described “diverse and nonpartisan coalition that acts to promote economic and social justice for the 99 plus 1 percent,” according to information provided by Lomax that has been officially approved by this very unofficial group.
OccupyWNC is open to all and seeks consensus through shared leadership, as it’s done on a national level in the Occupy events.
Lucy Christopher of Cashiers said that she became involved because of her reaction to the changes in the Middle East, and a sense of something new in the world.
“That restless unwillingness to continue with the status quo is now alive in my own country and in the neighboring part of my state,” Christopher said in an email interview. “I believe that our national security is threatened from within by its enormous economic disparity. I want a more just world for all of us, including my children and grandchildren.”
Lomax said that current financial and political situations shaping the nation are “simply not right.” Lomax cited some of the group’s dissatisfactions, including corporate ownership over most media outlets, which members believe means the message is controlled, and corporate ownership of the telecommunications industry, which is leading to increasing attempts to place restrictions on the Internet.
Though not an active conspiracy, the “1 percent,” Lomax said, is a loosely bound group of people who share common interests and, individually, great wealth.
“There’s 400 or so families involved — not that many,” he said. “And they certainly know each other, and go in the same circles. They are openly working to control legislation and are not hiding the fact that they are buying elections.”
Lomax said the Occupy movement has a much more powerful weapon than the money controlled by the 1 percent.
“We have the people,” Lomax said.
Rally with OccupyWNC for change
A nationwide rally will have its place in Western North Carolina on the streets of Bryson City at the federal building on Main Street from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m Friday, Jan. 20. Occupy groups across the nation want a constitutional amendment to end “corporate personhood and legalize Democracy.”
Attend the next OccupyWNC meeting
The OccupyWNC General Assembly meets most Tuesdays from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Jackson County Justice Center in Room 220.