Justin A. Rice for Boston.comA newly formed Occupy Salem organization demonstrated at Riley Plaza in downtown Salem this afternoon to support Occupy Boston, which has been camped out in Boston’s Financial District since the beginning of the month in protest of social inequality.
About six people participated in today’s demonstration while a dozen showed up last night for a rally and planning session. Today's protesters, all middle-aged, held signs with slogans such as “Main Street is too big to fail.”
They said they are protesting the role that the banks played in the 2008 financial crisis and they want to ensure that regulations are in place to prevent a repeat of the problems.
“We just want to get started and hope people notice,’’ said Sue Kirby, 61, a vocal member of the group who noted that she is not the spokeswoman for Occupy Salem. ‘‘In Salem we’re not talking about setting up tents yet, but we want to start the dialogue about what banks are doing and what needs to happen to straighten out the situation.’’
The protest took place across the street from a Bank of America branch on Washington Street.
“We have no comment on this group’s motives or actions,” Bank of America Spokesman T.J. Crawford said in an e-mail.
Salem isn’t the only city or town outside Boston where frustration with perceived economic inequality has taken root. Similar groups have popped up in Needham and Marlborough.
“People are excited but going into Boston takes a long time, especially if people aren’t able to stay overnight,” Kirby said. “People have been talking about occupying everywhere and that’s starting to take hold.”
According to Occupy Salem’s Facebook page, about a dozen people rallied at Shetland Park last night before the group held a meeting.
"I thought our first meeting last night went very well," the Facebook post from this morning read.
The Facebook page also posted the meeting minutes from last night. It says attendees debated whether to be Occupy Salem or Occupy North Shore and decided to start as Salem.
"We talked about our need to have a good relationship with the city at the same time we would assert our first amendment rights to assembly and free speech," the minutes noted.
When asked if the movement in Salem could end up taxing the Salem Police’s resources, Kirby said she does not expect that to happen.
“We’re from Main Streets,” she said. “We want to see money focused on Main Streets not Wall Street, where they are playing Russian roulette with our money.”
Jason Silva, Salem Mayor Kimberley Driscoll’s chief aide, said no permit was pulled for the demonstration but he did not offer further comments about the formation of Occupy Salem.
Kirby said the group is hoping to work with a similar organization that has been created at Salem State University. Mark Levy of Salem, 61, who was also at today’s demonstration, said one of the main organizers of the Salem State group is his friend, senior Erin McManus.
“I think what we’re doing today is testing the waters and hoping enough students and people from all walks of life are motivated to express their point of view and concerns,” Levy said.
Kirby said the group will hold another meeting at 7 p.m. on either Wednesday or Thursday next week at the First Universalist Church on Bridge Street. She said she hopes members from Occupy Boston attend the meeting to help train them.
Kirby recently camped out for four nights at Occupy Boston and has been there seven or eight times. She said the level of conversation, dialogue and commitment and the excitement was greater than she expected it to be.
“It was quite rustic but it was amazing. I never experienced anything quite like it,” said Kirby, a former labor and community organizer at General Electric.
She worked at the sign-making tent at Occupy Boston.
"Anyone could make a sign and leave it if they couldn’t hold it or march and it was an opportunity for people to say what they thought,” said Kirby, who is currently a community organizer for a Salem-based group called Promise the Children. “That created a joy and excitement I haven’t seen ever.”
Justin A. Rice can be reached at email@example.com.