Franklin Street saw a familiar sight Saturday as protesters again gathered in Peace and Justice Plaza and hung large, black banners from the streetlights.
About 20 protesters peacefully assembled from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. to attend the “Rally Against the Electoral Farce.”
The protesters, many of whom were also involved in the 2011 Occupy Chapel Hill protests, handed out pamphlets and answered questions.
This weekend marked the first anniversary of Occupy Chapel Hill, a grassroots protest modeled after Occupy Wall Street that occupied the Peace and Justice Plaza for several months.
Saturday’s demonstration was not a part of Occupy, said Maria Robinson, one of the event’s participants.
“I would call this your friendly neighborhood anarchist, anti-electoral rally on the anniversary of Occupy Chapel Hill,” she said.
Robinson said the Occupy movement may have dwindled, but the momentum it brought to underground groups has continued to grow.
She said the Occupy movement in the Triangle evolved into smaller movements like Occupy Health and Wellness N.C. as well as a statewide anti-fracking campaign and the UNC Student Power movement.
Mike Cohen, a participant from Mebane, said he was not deterred by Saturday’s event’s low turnout.
“Pretty much every group I knew that was involved in Occupy walked away with much larger numbers and, in that way, it was a real success,” he said. “I think anarchists in this country are wildly more visible than they were a year ago.”
Cohen said the protesters criticize issues like the growth of privatized prisons, the ineffectiveness of the state’s Racial Justice Act and the government’s inattention to social issues.
“I’m not a socialist. I’m not a communist. I’m not trying to redistribute the wealth,” he said. “But the bottom line is not anyone can be president. Not anyone can be rich. A few people can be rich, and one person can be president.”
Drivers honked their car horns, onlookers shouted slurs, and one passerby verbally threatened the demonstrators.
“People are coming by wanting to argue because as soon as they saw some of the banners or pamphlets being handed out, it instantly becomes, ‘Oh, you’re Occupy!’” said David Maliken, a UNC graduate.
Maliken was arrested in November when Chapel Hill police raided Occupy Chapel Hill’s encampment of the abandoned Yates Motor Company building on Franklin Street.
Protester Eric Malatesta said the group’s message is especially difficult to hear during election season.
“The difference is that now we’re saying this message during the presidential election year when it’s the most unpopular message you could say,” he said.?
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