The occupation of Naperville today was brief and uneventful, with no cardboard city, no street theater and only a relative handful of demonstrators.
About 50 people joined the event, forming a group just slightly larger than the one gathered outside a nearby Apple Store, for demonstrations modeled after the Occupy Wall Street encampment that began last month in lower Manhattan.
Organizers said they will return each Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon until their demands are met. It’s a list that includes increased regulation of banks, rollbacks on the rights of corporations and forgiveness for student loans.
“We had five or six people planning this, and I think we would have been happy if just us had showed up,” said organizer Steve Alesch, a Warrenville resident who serves on the suburb’s park board and is a Green Party activist.
The group marched from a parking lot and stopped for about half an hour on the corner of Jefferson and Main streets, a brief rally that attracted a few curious onlookers and earned some supportive honks from passing drivers.
“I don’t think I’ve seen anything like this in town,” said Naperville resident Tim Eloe, who spooned up a cup of oatmeal outside Starbucks as a chant of “We are the 99 percent” broke out on the opposite side of Jefferson Street.
The call-and-response shouting has become a trademark of the Occupy movement, a reference to the 1 percent of Americans who the protesters say control a disproportionate amount of the nation’s wealth. Eloe, an attorney who said he is comfortably ensconced somewhere in the middle of the 99 percent, said many of his neighbors work in the financial sector or for corporations reviled by Occupy activists.
“Well, there’s at least a couple dozen people over there, and there’s what? Maybe (140,000) people here in town? I’d say that’s probably an accurate representation” of support for the demonstrators’ agenda, said Eloe, grinning.
Alesch began planning the event last week with a few friends at a Wheaton coffee shop after hearing about an Occupy Aurora demonstration.
Naperville is an affluent community where Republicans far outpace Democrats, but Alesch said even western suburban residents are fed up with a struggling economy and a political system he believes favors wealthy, corporate interests over average citizens.
“You see some level of affluence here,” Alesch said. “But people are beginning to see that the system is broken.”
Colleen Llacsa, who snagged a flyer as she passed with her 2-year-old son in a stroller, said her experience suggests Naperville folks might be more sympathetic to the Occupy message.
Llacsa said she grew up in the city, but at age 29 has moved in with her parents because she and her husband have struggled to find good-paying jobs despite their college degrees.
“It’s a sign that the problems in the economy have hit everyone, even people who are pretty well-off,” she said. “My parents are conservative, they’re Republican, but now that their daughter has had to move back home, I think they might come out here with me.”