Horns honked and passers-by cheered as they drove by protesters lined up with homemade signs along El Dorado Road in Stockton on Wednesday.
A group of roughly 30 people gathered together at DeCarli Square to join the ever-expanding Occupy Wall Street movement that has been sweeping the nation.
The group of people, who ranged from children in strollers to elderly women in lawn chairs, had been out since 7 a.m. on Wednesday morning to protest high unemployment rates, high tax rates, and poor governmental support not only in Stockton, but across the United States.
The group, known as Occupy Stockton, planned to stay and protest until 11:30 p.m. Wednesday night. They would decide at that time whether they would stay longer or come back another day.
The latest unemployment rates for Stockton were last published by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Board of Labor Statistics in August.
Statistics show that Stockton’s unemployment rate hovers at around 16.1 percent, whereas the state average is roughly 12.1 percent. The national unemployment rate is about 9.1 percent, according to the department’s statistics.
“If I could only say one thing today, it would be ‘Stockton, wake up,’” said protest organizer and Stockton resident Motecuzoma Sanchez. “(Stockton) is at the bottom of the barrel in terms of numbers. Our democracy has been hijacked. We need to accomplish something today.”
The Occupy Stockton event was only planned recently, as event organizers Sanchez and Stockton resident Rynne Cowham decided after watching the news in early October that they wanted their city to join in on the hundreds of thousands of people already protesting in cities like New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.
Cowham said while she and Sanchez set up a Facebook page and invited people to the event Wednesday, the movement had no real leaders.
“People are listening, and this is not some party that people join, and when they get cold, they go home,” she said. “This is a ground-swell that is inclusive of Republicans, Democrats, the whole spectrum. This movement is you and it is me.”
Protesters came and went throughout the day, with everyone from students from University of the Pacific to local secretaries stopping in to show their support.
Protester Arlene Galindo, who was out with her grandson walking up and down the picket line, said it was surprising but encouraging to see people of all socio-economic groups throwing out support to the protesters.
Galindo said people had even donated clothes and water for the day, with the clothes going to a local homeless shelter and the water to the protesters to help them stay hydrated.
“I had no idea this was going on until I walked up and asked what it was all about,” said a protester who was known as Brother B. “But I’m staying. This is a good cause.”
Contact reporter Katie Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org.