Originally Published: November 17, 2011 9:55 p.m.
PRESCOTT - A rally urging the federal government to invest more money in repairing the nation's decaying infrastructure drew about 50 people Thursday afternoon to the Yavapai County Courthouse Plaza.
They carried signs with messages such as "Take Back America From Corporations" and "Stop The War/Feed the Poor," and chanted slogans like "We are the 99 percent" and "Jobs, not cuts."
The "99 percent" phrase has become the slogan of the Occupy Wall Street movement that has spread throughout the United States. Members of the fledging Occupy Prescott movement attended the rally, which the Prescott chapter of MoveOn.org sponsored.
MoveOn.org groups conducted rallies throughout the country Thursday to try to influence Congress on the deficit reduction plan that a congressional bipartisan supercommittee is preparing.
If the supercommittee fails to reach a $1.2 trillion deficit-cutting deal by Wednesday, automatic spending cuts totaling that amount would go into effect beginning in 2013, The Associated Press reported.
The supercommittee needs to propose a budget that creates jobs for upgrading the nation's infrastructure, local rally organizer Bill Swahlen said.
Swahlen, a retired homebuilder, said the budget must include tax hikes for the nation's wealthiest 1 percent.
He gathered with rally participants at first at the Buckey O'Neill statue, and they headed to both sides of Gurley Street.
Protesters expressed frustration with the economy, and included people who are unemployed or have family members who are out of work.
"This whole Republican mess - throw every Republican out of office," said Barry D'Orazio, a retired director of corporate systems for Armor Dial who lives in Prescott Valley.
"There are a few good ones," his wife, Karen, retorted.
Karen said her son, Brian, and his wife, Beth, lost their jobs and their home in Phoenix.
"It's hurting everyone," she said. "Our grandchildren can't get decent jobs."
Prescott resident Glenn Miller, a Democratic Party activist and member of the state party committee, said he has been unemployed for longer than two years. He previously worked in health club membership sales.
Referring to Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain's criticism of Wall Street protesters, Miller said, "He's right. We do need to get a job."
Miller and other rally participants headed back to the statue for speeches by Swahlen, medical transcriber Michael Adcock, and retirees Jim Pullaro and George Karsa.
The rally drew a receptive ear from at least one observer, Aaron Polli, who moved from Philadelphia to Prescott 10 weeks ago.
"It's good to see people unified," said Polli, an unemployed stonemason. "Unity is important."
However, another observer, Michael Veitsman, an immigrant from the former Soviet Union who is a Republican precinct and state party committeeman, criticized the messages.
"This (movement) can destroy the country," Veitsman said. He added the rally participants have "normal faces," but described activists elsewhere in the country as being "criminal."
Veitsman, an 11-year resident here, showed up at the rally before heading to Republican headquarters nearby to meet Wil Cardon, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in 2012.
Cardon, of Mesa, was not sympathetic to the messages from MoveOn.org and Occupy Prescott.
"They stand for a free lunch. I'm opposed to a free lunch," Cardon said. "I don't think the government's job is to pick winners and losers."
The protesters concluded the hour-long rally by marching to the office of U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Flagstaff, at 240 S. Montezuma St.