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Gary, IN Joins the Occupy Movement

By Chuck Sudo in News on Oct 31, 2011 7:00PM

Somewhere beyond the cortex is a small voice whose mere whisper can silence an army of arguments. It stands alone in final judgement as to whether we have demanded enough of ourselves and by that example have inspired the best in those around us.

- New York Times

Welcome to the small voice.

Few American cities are used to highlight the downside of the urban condition as often as Gary, Indiana. The Northwest Indiana city that rose and fell on the fortunes of the steel industry has been used as Exhibit A through Z for everything from rampant poverty and murder rates to municipal atrophy and bankruptcy.

With the Occupy movement growing across the country and solidarity movements springing up even in affluent suburbs as Naperville, logic would dictate that, of all American cities, Gary should have a solidarity movement.

It's happening but, as the photos accompanying this post indicate, the numbers aren't as massive as the Occupy protests in New York City, Oakland and Chicago. For Kim McGee, one of Occupy Gary's organizers, the protest isn't about the sheer numbers but what the protesters bring to the movement.

"Right now, [Occupy Gary is] kind of fragmented," McGee said. "But we're learning to work together."

McGee sees Occupy Gary as an extension of her work with the Central District Organizing Project, a non-profit advocacy group to help revitalize Gary's central business district and hold local politicians accountable. One of the offshoots of the project is Anansi's Web Youth Media Action Project, a project that teaches young people how to use art and technology to foster social justice and change.

McGee sees local politicians and corporations such as U.S. Steel as two sides of the same coin. "Our City Council meetings are broadcast via local cable, but recently city government has begun to cut out public comments," she said. "We've also been protesting the city's decision to privatize garbage collection, which has cost 40 people their jobs."

Some Occupy Gary protesters tried to set up a base camp at Gateway Park, but officials told them they had to move. McGee believes officials at nearby U.S. Steel complained and asked to have the tent city removed.

Like other solidarity movements, Occupy Gary doesn't seem to be fading away. McGee helped organize another solidarity rally and General Assembly Saturday and hopes it can lead to more protesters and some momentum.