Occupy Providence on the march

Protests
By DAVID SCHARFENBERG  |  October 19, 2011

TJI_Fall-2011-003_main
SINGING AND SMILING — if something less than satisfied.
It's 11:30 am on Day 3 of Occupy Providence and a small group of activists has gathered at the foot of a statue in Burnside Park to plot a march on Bank of America's Kennedy Plaza branch.

Somewhere near the center is Trish Phelan, a 28-year-old certified nursing assistant who has spent the last couple of nights in a tent, here, with her girlfriend, Savanah Kite, and her beagle Lucky.

She was among a first wave of protesters who marched on the branch earlier this morning — amid chants of "Bank of America, bad for America!" — to cancel her accounts. So she is something of a pro.

"They seemed a little bit intimidated," she tells the assembled, with a sly grin, "which was kind of funny."

Occupy Providence, which launched with an energetic, carnival-like march of roughly 1200 people on October 15, has been unabashed in its critique of the financial and political elite. But like its counterparts in New England and across the country, it has brought a certain playfulness to the protest.

The 11:30 am march on the bank, with four more customers determined to close their accounts, has its moments of confrontation — bank security locks the doors, "banks got bailed out, we got sold out!," a postal employee snaps at the protesters on the sidewalk. But there is something joyful about the whole thing.

A group waiting out back for their account-cancelling cohorts, composes a song to the tune of "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean": "My money's in Bank of America — bailouts, layoffs, and fees/My money's in Bank of America, so bring back my money to me."

When Cory Antunes, 20, exits the bank in her "Wake the Fuck Up" T-shirt and tells her comrades that she couldn't divest because she is overdrawn, she is promptly congratulated for having stuck it to the man.

But this is not just subversive fun. The bonhomie, it seems, is a sort of salve, too.

During a lull, Phelan's girlfriend Kite, 24, tells me her college degree has been of little help in finding a job. And her outstanding student loans have made graduate school an impossibility.

"I thought the world was supposed to open up," she says, taking a drag on her cigarette.

The group marches back to Burnside Park, now, singing and smiling — if something less than satisfied. On the fence surrounding the encampment, a small sign stands out from the others: "Debt Makes Us Feel Alone, Occupation Brings Us Together."

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