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Occupy movement comes to Valparaiso

Robert JohnsValparaiso holds sign reading 'End Corporate Personhood' as he joins several dozen others for protest support Occupy Wall Street

Robert Johnson of Valparaiso holds a sign reading "End Corporate Personhood" as he joins several dozen others for a protest in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement in downtown Valparaiso, Ind. Saturday October 15, 2011. The protest was one of several in Northwest Indiana Saturday. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: October 15, 2011 10:59PM

VALPARAISO — Steve Kramer finished a four-year term on the Dyer Town Council in January.

Saturday, he stood at the intersection of Lincolnway and Franklin Street in downtown Valparaiso, kitty-corner from Chase Bank, joining others in showing their displeasure with corporate America.

“It may seem different, but they’re all interrelated,” said Kramer, who described himself as a progressive Democrat. “It’s just a different avenue now to get into the streets and educate the public and get people involved.”

More than 30 people gathered on three of the four corners of the intersection — per a request from city officials to keep the number of demonstrators in any one spot at around 12 — in Valparaiso’s version of Occupy Wall Street, one of a handful of such events taking place around the region Saturday.

Drivers passing through downtown honked and waved to show their support for the group, which carried signs and an American flag.

Kramer, who planned on heading to a protest at Thomas Centennial Park in downtown Chesterton from the one in Valparaiso, hopes to coordinate a protest in Dyer in front of the town hall.

“We’re out here trying to educate everybody that if you’re not satisfied with everything, get off your couch and speak up,” he said.

Jon Gable, a mechanic who works in Valparaiso and coordinated the effort, said passersby had been “very supportive.” He expected more people to come throughout the daylong event.

Not everyone there supported the protest. Jillian Way, a student at Ivy Tech who lives in Valparaiso, held a sign that read, “No one forced me into debt. I am accountable. I am the 53 percent.”

“I believe in personal responsibility. People complain that they made a late payment on their credit card and interest rates go up 30 percent. They need to read the back of the card,” she said, adding she lives on cash.

While her husband and a protester engaged in a spirited debate, Way said everyone was getting along, regardless of their views.

“People are respectful,” she said. “We’re respectful of everyone’s opinion.”

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