This rally is louder. Unlike the people Occupying Wall Street, these people are allowed to use megaphones, so they do, allowing extremely unfocused people a chance to fill the air. A young guy in shorts and a white T-shirt, bouncing up and down on his heels, tells the crowd he “loves humanity” and wants it to “get rid of possessions, stop being slaves!” An Italian tourist grabs the megaphone and offers the Continental perspective. “I want to love America, but I hate America right now,” she says. She can see some people wincing. “But I love America!”
The rally is saved when one organizer grabs a two-page statement of principles developed at Occupy Wall Street. It reads faster through a megaphone than through the repeat-after-me “people’s microphone” the New Yorkers use.
“They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process,” he says, reading, “despite not having the original mortgage. They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.”
Paul Ruth, a teacher who lives nearby, likes that the list is coming from New York. “I’ve been giving money to those guys,” he says. He thinks the crisis could be resolved, at least a little, with a biblical-style jubilee that forgave some debt. Also: He can’t stand that President Obama compared this to the Tea Party. “He’s gutless. When he compares the Tea Party to this movement, you know all you need to know. The Tea Party was funded by billionaires. These guys, you know, they’re taking our donations.”
The march begins at 4:15 p.m. Occupy Las Vegas has permission to march up and down the strip, taking up the traffic lanes next to the sidewalks; they will walk this path for two hours. The movement is famous enough by now that some of the gawkers grab cameras and take pictures of themselves, with the march in the background. The organizer who read the Occupy Wall Street demands leads two chants that he’s written down on a Post-it note.
“Unemployment! Foreclosure! Occupy until it’s over!”
“Republican or Democrat! All bought out by Goldman Sachs!”
They pass the Bellagio, cross the street, and head down toward the Mardi Gras-themed Harrah’s. Ray Dearborn, a businessman from California who’s in town for a manufacturers’ conference, watches them from the sidewalk—beverage in hand, Bluetooth headset in ear. He argues with the sign-holders.
“People over profit?” he says. “If I don’t make a profit, how do I pay my 52 employees?”
“We’re on your side!” yells the sign-holder.
Dearborn’s just having fun, he says. “I’m a Republican, but I’ll be honest—I don’t like the choices we’ve got,” he says. “The special interests have too much influence with both of them, and that’s why you see things like General Electric not paying any taxes. They can write rules that allow that. I’m not a big enough person to become one of the rule-writers.”