Occupy Dallas forms an amorphous protest
Protesters organized in downtown Dallas Thursday morning, marching toward the region's Federal Reserve headquarters, demonstrating their frustrations with what they say is out-of-control greed on Wall Street and malaise in Washington. The intial crowd of an estimated 400 or so protesters is calling for economic change, but many could not suggest how this might best be possible. Occupy Dallas is one of many branches sprouting up since the Occupy Wall Street campaign in lower Manhattan began to pick up steam and greater media attention this week. The group held an organization meeting Monday that lead to Thursday's protest. One young man, who would only give his first name -- Chaz -- dressed in a camouflage jacket and took to a make-shift stump at the Dallas Fed location. "We are here because we are 'Fed up!'" he cried into a megaphone. Momentum built after he stepped down. While demands varied from extended animal rights to the end of bailouts and the shutting down of the Federal Reserve entirely, all participants seemed newly lionized, even if they are part of a movement that is still attempting to find its shape. One woman, who identified herself only as Jennifer, held up a sign that read, "Foreclose on the banks." "I think the government should have allowed more of the larger banks to fail at the height of the crisis," Jennifer said. "It may have been worse in the short-term, but we have set a precedent." While many protestors in Dallas voiced concerns over a lack of jobs and unequal rights for the middle and lower class, many also struggled with problems far more nuanced. I asked several what they would do with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and each time the answer was, "I just don't know." "Does anyone know?" one protester asked me. Rafael Bautista, a broker demonstrating at the Occupy San Diego movement, answered the question via iPad after reading this story. "The government needs to stop funding these corporate behemoths and fully acquire them as government entities to provide affordable and reasonable opportunities for housing to all," Bautista said. "We the people ask for guaranteed shelter for all. Ownership of property by all Americans, not just our 70 year low of 65%." Another protester in Dallas, who called himself Sterling, pulled his younger son behind him in a wagon with a sign that read, "Big business is stealing my future." Sterling was more soft spoken than the rest, just truly happy to be part of a real effort to change things, whatever that might be. I asked him if he thought it would be harder for his son to own a home when he grew older. Sterling didn't hesitate. "Definitely," he said. "But I think the American Dream has become more than a home now. It's back to being about making sure my son has an opportunity to live a happy, peaceful life." Some arrived solely for the spectacle. A cab driver named Ali, who moved to the U.S. from Ethiopia as a child, leaned against his van and watched, chatting idly with his friend. He said demonstrations such as this, as bewildering as it was to him, are what makes this country a destination for millions. There were some who knew exactly why they arrived in Dallas. One young man, going by the name John, shouted up at the Dallas Fed building his demands for a new currency and a tearing down of America's central banking system. "It started in 1913," John said. "This economy doesn't need a stimulus. We can do this ourselves." John is an out-of-work oil field worker. His wife, a secretary, supports them, but they fell behind on their mortgage and now face foreclosure, he said. "Are you going to apply for help from programs like HAMP?" I asked. He grinned and shook his head. "I don't need any help." "So you're fine if they take your house?" "I'd like to see them try to evict me," he answered. By midday, the protest was allowed to march to a nearby Chase Bank building. Once back at the Dallas Fed though, protestor Travis Emert began organizing the crowd. They voted with "ayes" and "nays" to head toward the John F. Kennedy memorial farther downtown where they would stay until nightfall and return the next morning. "I plan on being here until it's done," Emert said. Write to Jon Prior. Follow him on Twitter @JonAPrior.