Bemidji man marches in Occupy Seattle
Fixing the economy and respecting the land is the message Soren Sorensen, who is from Bemidji, hoped to endorse Sunday as he arrived in Seattle to participate in the Occupy Seattle protests.
Sorensen, 38, spent $300 on gas and $50 on handouts he gave to people on his stops along the way from Minnesota to the rainy city. Sitting in a local coffee shop Monday in Seattle during a telephone interview a few hours before he marched with other protestors from the Westlake Center (downtown) to a major port in Seattle, Sorensen sounded calm and confident about what he was doing.
At some of the West Coast's busiest ports on Monday, hundreds of Wall Street protesters blocked gates, causing the partial shutdown of several terminals in a day of demonstrations they hope will cut into the profits of the corporations that run the docks.
In Seattle, Sorensen was one of about 400 Occupy Seattle supporters who gathered at one or more Port of Seattle terminals.
Sorensen planned to wear a suit and a blaze orange stocking cap for the march. If violence were to erupt between police and demonstrators, he said, protesters would extend their demonstrations another day.
He pledged to protest as long as it would take to influence arbitrators to side with the demonstrators.
"If we fail to occupy the ports, if we fail to occupy current decision-makers making the biggest decisions in Washington, D.C., or on Wall Street, we need to be able to occupy our land," he said. "We can do a better job of respecting life. We must value the life, land and food we eat."
This is not the first anti-Wall Street demonstration Sorensen has participated in. He was in the Twin Cities earlier this year demonstrating with Occupy Minnesota protestors.
He is also a member of the Ad Hoc Committee to create Midwest Solidarity that was formed a little more than two weeks ago.
The Occupy Seattle protest seemed like a natural fit for Sorensen, since he had spent summers in Seattle selling short stories when he was 19 or 20, he said.
"I'm really enjoying being back in the neighborhood I lived in," he said. "It's kind of returning to a life I had lived before."
When he arrived this week, Sorensen said he saw a few tents still set up at the Occupy Seattle encampment at Seattle Central Community College, where a few days ago occupiers were told to clean up and go home.
"There are still people camping in tents," he said. "In Minneapolis, we were not allowed to have tents, so many slept under tarps. Anywhere we've seen tents, I've cheered people on. It seems like the local police here are more lenient or more supportive than what I experienced in Minneapolis."
According to occupyseattle.org, the agenda is to shut down the ports, which the website states is a major source of profits for the 1 percent. Without the ports running, "Wall Street makes no money," the website states.
But stopping ports also means stopping work for people who depend on seaport jobs for income. For Sorensen, this was not a major concern.
"I think there's a community interest in saying the use of the ports by the 1 percent is against the interest of the average American citizen of the 99 percent," he said. "The real hazard is (the protest) not working. The violent tactics used by police and security to intimidate organizers within the Occupy Seattle or labor union movement would mean violence is more successful today, which we all feel is wrong."
Sorensen's trip out west was mostly paid for out-of-pocket, but to Sorensen, letting people know they could make phone calls to the White House to vouch for protection of free speech is worth more than money.
"I want to encourage people to keep restarting, to rebuild Occupy organizations and keep holding general assemblies," he said.