Occupy Iowa City's May Day rally addresses budget cuts

BY BETH BRATSOS | MAY 02, 2012 6:30 AM

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Occupy Iowa City members say the movement isn't back — it never went away.


Around 30 members marched from College Green Park on Tuesday morning to the Pedestrian Mall as part of a May Day rally protesting corporate greed and other alleged social inequalities.

Ryan Spurgetis, one of Occupy Iowa City's May Day event planners, said he thinks the protest worked well with May Day traditions of solidarity among undermined groups.

"I think [the May Day] message carries forward from the 99 percent," he said. "… Identifying that it's the wealthy and the powerful who cause the problems for our world. These struggles are in fact connected, and we need everybody to fight for change."

Spurgetis offered his concerns over recent state and federal legislative actions during a speech in the pedestrian mall.

"All the while, corporate tax breaks and subsidies are left in place or even increased," he said.

He said despite the state budget's surplus for the fiscal year, Gov. Terry Branstad maintains deep cuts.

"[And] in many cases like higher education and disability services, he's making even further cuts," he said.

Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, acknowledged the surplus and the Republican insistence on maintaining strict spending in many areas across the board.

"That's why we've gone kind of overtime in the Legislature while we're negotiating on budgets," he said.

But Tim Albrecht, a Branstad spokesman, said the surplus is a positive sign the state is being efficient with taxpayer dollars.

"Gov. Branstad is committed to ending the bad budget practices of the past where we spent more money than we took in," he said. "[Branstad] has held true to that commitment, and as a result, the state is on sound financial footing."

At the protest, marchers held signs saying "we are indignant," "power to the people," and "solidarity" while chanting, "Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, corporate greed has got to go."

Coralville resident Katie Coyle said she attended the rally because American workers are not treated fairly.

"We've had all our benefits robbed from us by corporate powers," she said. "There have been times in the past where people have gained insurance [and other benefits], and a lot of them have been stripped away from us."

Iowa City resident Jason Whisler agreed with Spurgetis' idea and extended his criticism to state budget cuts at the University of Northern Iowa, where a Board of Regents vote to close the Price Lab School led to the elimination of teachers and academic programs.

"Putting the brakes on Branstad's grab for control of the Senate was a great victory, but the battle will go on," he said.

Local musician Hannah Drollinger said she carried a globe at the rally to show people are all united on one planet.

"If I could give one message to the Iowa City community," she said, it would be "money can't buy you love."

Even if the local May Day event is not the biggest catalyst to spur movements across the country, Coyle said, Occupiers in Iowa City are doing their part to help along the way.

"I think that it plants the seeds in peoples' minds," she said. "And that's important."

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