Groups in Fontana, Redlands and Riverside consider forming larger “Occupy Inland Empire”
Neil Nisperos, Staff Writer
Created: 10/28/2011 11:46:43 PM PDT

Occupy Wall Street-inspired groups that have been meeting for the past several weeks to protest economic inequity in Fontana, Redlands and Riverside are considering meeting as a larger, single “Occupy Inland Empire” group, participants said.

Such a consolidated effort would help generate greater awareness for the cause, group members said.

Potential locations under consideration include areas near major freeway crossings near the border between Riverside and San Bernardino counties, and the cities of Riverside and Ontario.

A decision on moving forward has yet to be made through consensus of all of the group’s participants, organizers said.

“People have a right to assemble peacefully,” Ontario Mayor Paul Leon said. “This is the United States of America. As long as people uphold the law, the city of Ontario will always uphold the law with them.”

Tommy Purvis, 31, helps coordinate Occupy Fontana meetings through Facebook postings. Purvis said the group agreed at their Wednesday meeting near City Hall to join a proposed larger “Occupy Inland Empire” group.

“We talked about putting all of our resources together on one big occupation,” Purvis said. “Everyone wants solidarity between Riverside and San Bernardino County and so we’re working on finding a location conducive to that.”

Renee Van Vechten, a political science professor at the University of Redlands, said the movement shouldn’t be dismissed by detractors.

“As a group, they’re articulating a set of deep-seated concerns, frustrations and fears about where America is and where it’s headed,” Van Vechten said.

“Just like the tea party folks who have been demonstrating in reaction to what they’re unhappy about, I think people are equally upset about other kinds of policies and the banking system. I think the Occupy Wall Street movement is much more concerned with inequality, and that’s not a crazy notion for people in America who are experiencing that directly.”

There are about 30 participants each for Redlands and Fontana, who meet weekly near their city halls.

The Riverside group, which involves about 50 to 60 people, has a group camped out in a downtown pedestrian crossing. There are also groups in Victorville and the Coachella Valley.

The local groups are inspired by the Occupy Wall Street protest, which began last month in New York City to protest corporate greed and bring attention to increasing poverty and wealth disparity in the nation. The movement has swept across the nation with participants camping or “occupying” in their respective cities.

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