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Local Occupy group grows, finds new members

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Corporate personhood, the deregulation of Wall Street and the widening gap between American social classes. Occupy Kenai & Soldotna is worried about many things; a common thread among its members. 

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The group has a lot of concerned people, said Joe Skrha, Kenai attorney. 

Local Occupy members met Thursday to discuss future plans and goals. The group, which formed in mid-October, talked about the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, renting a small theater for educational purposes and pushing for change starting at the Kenai Peninsula Borough level.

“I feel like it’s a good time (to) at least start discussing what our ultimate strategy is,” said Joseph Lapp, Occupy Soldotna & Kenai member. “Do we just want to educate people, or is our ultimate goal actually to change local law? If it’s changing local law we need to start thinking strategically about how that piece of the puzzle fits into the bigger picture.”

Success at the borough level — if done right — is achievable, said the members.

Supporters are present at both of the main population centers of the Peninsula, Lapp said.

Occupy Kenai and Soldotna began with just a few members. There are now about 18 residents associated with the group, which meets weekly. It’s taking a break for the holidays, however.

“It’s grown steadily,” said Kate Veh, an Occupy Kenai & Soldotna founding member. “It hasn’t grown fast. The people in our group are concerned enough to the point that they feel the need to be politically active, and they’re not afraid of it.”

Meetings take place at Skrha’s law office in Kenai, which he volunteered for use. 

The group now has an official website, occupykenaisoldotna.org. The website was a collective decision. It provides the what, when and why of the group, and it contains links to the movement’s national affiliates. 

Patrick J. Koivisto joined Occupy about a month ago. Word-of-mouth about the local group interested Koivisto. He found their Facebook page and immediately joined, and two days later attended his first meeting. 

“I wanted to join to voice my opinions about corporate personhood just like everyone else,” said the 31-year-old. “Also, to see if we can do anything locally to help the national effort.”

Thursday’s meeting began with discussion of a newly drafted letter regarding the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012. Skrha wrote the letter—addressed to President Barack Obama—voicing his concern of a specific provision within the act. 

Members said they are concerned about provision 1031, authorizing indefinite military detention of U.S. citizens believed to have engaged in terrorist activity. 

“If you read my letter over carefully you’ll see there is a reference to the Patriot Act,” Skhra said. “(The American citizens) were promised that the act would only be used for situations involving terrorist activities. The act is being used largely for drug and immigration matters. So, what’s stopping the government from calling drug dealers terrorists, or illegal immigrants terrorists, or whomever. Next thing you know they will be detaining large numbers of Americans, and that’s not right.”

All members in attendance agreed to sign the letter. 

Obama on Friday threatened to veto the act unless lawmakers remove the provision. The $662 billion Senate bill passed in a 93-7 vote on Dec. 1. Veh and Lapp discussed plans to show the documentary “The Corporation” at a local theater, possibly the Triumvirate Theatre in Soldotna or a theater in Homer.

The film is a 2003 Canadian documentary that shows the development of the contemporary business corporation, from its original state as a government-chartered institution meant to effect specific public functions, to the rise of the modern commercial institution entitled to most of the legal rights of a person, according to its website. 

“It’s really in-depth, so it’s a really good educational tool,” Lapp said.

Members discussed statewide plans, and the formation of a delegate assembly in Anchorage in late January. Representatives from the many groups around the state will be chosen to travel to Anchorage. 

Organizers plan to hold the assembly at the A Street Event Hall in downtown Anchorage. The plan is moving forward, as the main groups have signed on, but delegates have not been chosen, Lapp said. 

Occupy Kenai & Soldotna’s two-hour meeting was stretched out by political discussion, ranging from local to national. Members said they are enthusiastic about the group’s face-to-face discussions, which are important for planning continued action around the Peninsula. 

The next meeting is scheduled for either Jan. 5 or 12. Visit Occupy Kenai & Soldotna’s Facebook page or website for more details. 

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