WHEELING - Craig Thoburn said he didn't know what to expect when he decided to hold a rally to coincide with the Global Day of Protest initiative.
Thoburn was surprised and encouraged Saturday, as nearly 100 people proclaiming themselves "the 99 percent" held signs and took turns sharing their thoughts at Wheeling Park's amphitheater. The gathering was a mix of young and old, which Thoburn said shows the importance of the 'Occupy Wall Street movement, which began earlier this month in New York.
"This doesn't just effect any one generation," he said. "The people here are awake and know what is going on and want the truth to be heard."
More than 30 of those in attendance took turns speaking to the crowd, each sharing stories of how government spending and corporate greed have effected their lives. "They were shy at first, but once everyone realized we were all here for the same cause they started lining up to talk," Thoburn said.
Many also took the opportunity to tell the crowd to ignore each others' political differences and find common ground.
"The one percent is good at pitting the rest of us against each other," said Wheeling resident Robin Mahonen who, along with her husband Ed, spent six days in New York participating in the Occupy Wallstreet proceedings.
"The Tea Party people are mad about the same things we are, but they express their anger at the government. We believe it is the corporations that are causing the problems."
Mahonen said she felt ''blessed and fortunate'' to have been able to attend the New York occupation, and was glad to bring some of the practices and lessons to Wheeling.
"I saw a community of intelligent and articulate people form and grow," she said.
Saturday's rally attracted attendants from across the Ohio Valley and beyond, including Sistersville residents Linda Jenson and Julie and Bill Schleier and Middlebourne resident Chris Hoke. Each said the more than one hour drive to the rally was worth it.
"I could not not be here," Hoke said, adding that even though the gathering was small in comparison to others around the country, it was still important.
Thoburn said he has no intentions of holding similar rallies in the future and that Saturday's event was a one-time gathering. Meanwhile, Mahonen said she hoped those in attendance would continue to make their voices heard just as those in New York will continue to do.
"They're not going anywhere," she said. "They are true patriots."