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Occupy movement in Traverse City, Mich. calls for economic reform

At 8pm on Saturday night, young people in Traverse City were gathered downtown and jubilantly shouting “Down with Corporate America!” and “The World is Waking Up!”

“I feel like our rights are being taken away and this is kind of helping,” said Sawyer Hentschell, 18, as he stood with his friends across from Chase Bank downtown. “The bank bailout has put everyone deeper in debt.”

Hentschell said that he was inspired to protest by his older sister, and this was his first demonstration.

What outcome is he hoping for? “Positive change.”

“I feel like the economy needs to be fixed,” said Cam Williams, 19, who was in his third hour of demonstrating. “I have a job — I have two. And I’m still poor.”

Taylor Dall, 18, was among the first to take to Facebook and call for an Occupy Wall St. type demonstration in Traverse City.

She said that 150 people kicked off the demonstration at noon.

Dall said that she is hoping Traverse City will have a general assembly meeting where people can get together and start taking about how to deal with the problems people are experiencing here.

When asked what problems she thought might be addressed by a general assembly, Dall said that she hoped that older people who know more about specific problems and solutions would attend and share their knowledge.

“I don’t know everything,” she said, “but I do know we need to change.”

“I feel like if it is rippling all the way here it is going on,” William Kline, 32, said of the Occupy protest movement. “People are getting upset.”

Kline is a musician and house painter who makes a living foraging wild mushrooms and selling them to restaurants, but he said that he would be happy to work a regular full-time job if he could find one.

The U.S. economy operates in a way that is not healthy, he said. “The planet is a closed system. We can only grow so much.”

Kline mentioned the Enbridge oil spill in the Kalamazoo River as an example of the damage that corporate-led economic growth can bring.

“I don’t recall a protest ever going on at night,” David Warren said as he approvingly surveyed the demonstrators as they set off on a march reminiscent of a conga line. “And we grey hairs are in the minority.”

Warren is a county captain in statewide effort to repeal Public Act 4 — the law that allows appointed Emergency Managers to take over local governments, fire officials, break contracts and privatize services.

“All major changes come from the ground up,” he said.

“I’m not here to have fun,” said another gray haired man who held a sign calling for public funding of political campaigns, “I’m here to see some sensible regulation going on.”

Access to health care, a more just tax system, relief from student debt and an end to political corruption were among the themes raised by protesters.

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