Thirty-year-old Fort Collins resident Dalton Zerlon said his stint in the military is what initially taught him about the ineffectiveness of government â€“â€“ an ineffectiveness that ultimately motivated him to drive 2,000 miles to New York City to participate in the Occupy Wall Street protests.
Whatâ€™s the atmosphere like in New York right now?
Zerlan: Itâ€™s very, very busy. Actually in the park where the protesters are, thereâ€™s a lot of activity and a ton of people. Itâ€™s nearly shoulder-to-shoulder.
Thereâ€™s a lot of sweat, tears and booze, and food is constantly available. The food is free, and itâ€™s available for everybody. Thereâ€™s also free bedding and sleeping bags for campers, and people offer mediation services if people have any problems among themselves.
There are also police surrounding the park, 24/7, and an NYPD tower looking over everybody.
What do you guys hope to accomplish? Is it even possible?
Z: We want to change our status quo, but itâ€™s also all about campaign finance reform. We can all agree thereâ€™s too much corporate money flowing into campaigns.
We need more accountability in government. More people have been arrested in the protests than in the 2008 financial collapse.
To do this, we need to get more people involved. Most people can agree that we need to reform things right now, and that the sentiments of Occupy Wall Street affect everyone.
Answering the second part of your question, I whole-heartedly believe that we can accomplish what weâ€™re setting out to do. As long as that continues and more and more people become disenfranchised with how things are run, our movementâ€™s going to keep getting bigger.
What are you guys looking for in terms of government response? What do you think about the responses youâ€™ve gotten so far?
Z: Well, attendees donâ€™t want anything to do with any party, because theyâ€™re all under the blanket of corporate-ocracy.
As far as trying to stop the protests, I donâ€™t see them doing anything about it. What makes New York unique is that weâ€™ve got Bloomberg, and he has contradicting statements about either kicking people out or that we can stay as long as we obey the rules, depending on what media outlet heâ€™s talking to.
What response do you have to Occupy Wall Streetâ€™s critics?
Z: A lot of that criticism is coming through things controlled by what weâ€™re protesting, like the mainstream media, which is owned by big corporations, who obviously donâ€™t want their power taken away.
How long do you expect the protests to go on for?
Z: For a long time. Winter weather might play a role, but most people say theyâ€™ll come back when the weather clears up, and then, I can only see it getting bigger.
I can guarantee you that there will be a presence for as long as there needs to be.
Why stage these protests now, rather than right after the economic meltdown in 2008?
Z: Because the apathy in this country is so great, and itâ€™s very fair to ask â€˜Why?â€™ Why werenâ€™t more people out on the streets then?
But in the time since, bailouts happened, CEOs were still getting exorbitant salaries, things were still running as they were before the collapse, and after three years of it, I think people got sick of it, because the same laws that allowed these things to happen are still there, and now people are taking action.