The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

November 8, 2011

Local group frustrated with rich getting richer, occupies Cornelius Park

ASHTABULA — The national frustration with the worldwide economic crisis has arrived in Ashtabula.

Fifteen members strong, the Occupy Ashtabula movement met Monday evening in Lance Cpl. Kevin M. Cornelius Memorial Park, said organizer Josh Phillips, 24, of Ashtabula.

“I visited Occupy Cleveland about a month ago,” he said. “I’ve been waiting for something like this (to happen in Ashtabula) for awhile ... I started a Facebook page and let it happen from there.”

While the group enjoyed picnic-style food and discussed economic injustice, City Manager Anthony Cantagallo and City Council talked at City Hall about giving the group a permit to camp out at the park.

City Solicitor Michael Franklin said a permit could be a liability to the city.

“No group has ever asked to camp out in our park,” Ward 3 Councilwoman Ann Stranman said.

As council members argued at City Hall over the perimeters of such a permit, Occupy Ashtabula member Mark Leatherman said he was at the park to “raise awareness and discuss why everyone around here is so broke.”

Mary Graves said she was there to show solidarity with the national Occupy movement.

“Our main concern is corporate greed,” she said.

Leatherman said, “The local corruption is another problem.”

Steve DeAnna of Ashtabula said jobs should come from the bottom up. That would solve a lot of the nation’s problems, he said. He scoffed at the trickle-down theory.

Leatherman said he also would like to see Ashtabula residents support the small, local businesses and avoid big, discount stores.

All of the Occupy Ashtabula people said even if they don’t get a city permit to occupy the park 24-hours a day, 7 days a week, they will be at the park gazebo during the day to educate the public and join forces with the national movement.

Phillips said people can look at the Occupy Ashtabula Facebook page at facebook.com/occupyashtabula.

“We have 100 people on the site and it has grown exponentially,” he said.

The group has a full page statement concerning their feelings about economic issues.

“The ultra-rich have us by the throats and they’ve had us by the throats for a long, long time. While the rest of us suffer through a worldwide economic crisis the people at the top are getting richer,” the statement said. “In a 2011 study, the richest 20 percent of the country had 85 percent of the privately held wealth....”

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