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Occupy Boston marks 1st anniversary

Activists marched from the State House to Dewey Square during the one-year anniversary celebration of Occupy Boston.
Activists marched from the State House to Dewey Square during the one-year anniversary celebration of Occupy Boston.KAYANA SZYMCZAK FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE/Boston Globe

About 60 demonstrators gathered in front of the State House Sunday afternoon to mark the one-year anniversary of Occupy Boston, reuniting as a small but spirited contingent whose anticorporate fervor has apparently not diminished over the past year.

Amid a backdrop that included a tent with the phrase “U R being cheated” scrawled across it and a large sign that read in part, “We’re Still Here!” protesters sang, ate snacks, and gave fiery speeches espousing the economic populism that became a hallmark of the movement last fall.

Many speakers blamed politicians and corporations for what they said was the country’s widening economic inequality and corrupt system of government, focusing much of their ire on Wall Street bailouts and tax and defense policies.

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“We are telling . . . Mitt Romney, and we are telling . . . [President] Obama, that we the people of this nation are tired of the same game, the same political game,” said Jose Briceno, 30, of Cambridge. “We want change, we want a real change.”

One year ago on Sunday, Occupy Boston demonstrators converged on Dewey Square in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement to protest what organizers viewed as corporate greed and an economic system tilted in favor of the super-rich. The encampment swelled to hundreds of tents with a constant presence in the square before police cleared the protesters from the park in December.

Demonstrators said Sunday that they have been working over the past year in smaller groups on a variety of initiatives, including efforts to reduce corporate influence on political campaigns and to build support for more federal spending on social programs with corresponding cuts to defense appropriations.

“It’s been an incredibly exciting movement,” said Joan Livingston, 58, of Boston, who wore a party hat that said “Happy Birthday,” an homage to the cause.

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The rally also had a number of distinctive visuals, including a sculpted pig’s head worn by at least one demonstrator, and a massive gray “debt boulder” that rested in front of the State House steps.

Protesters were invited to write about their financial burdens on the boulder, and one person referenced, “student loans for seminary, LORD HAVE MERCY.”

Steve Revilak of Arlington said the day was partly an opportunity to “pat ourselves on the back a little bit just for making it through this long.”

But, he added, “A lot of concerns that caused the encampment I don’t think have been addressed.”

Another demonstrator, Leah Phillips, 46, of West Roxbury, was helping to organize a blanket drive for the needy and said the Occupy movement is motivated by compassion.

“The most important [thing] is it’s humans getting together to help humans,” Phillips said.

Her friend, Molly Hannon, 41, of Roslindale, said passion remains high among the movement’s devotees.

“We’re just trying to make the world a better place,” she said.

Shortly after 2:30 p.m., the demonstrators began marching, with a Boston police escort, from the State House through Faneuil Hallto the site of the Dewey Square encampment, moving in an orderly but boisterous fashion among shoppers and tourists who for the most part appeared puzzled. Some, however, waved in support while others sneered.

Marchers repeated several chants along their route, including “We are the 99 percent,” and “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!”

In December, Boston police arrested 46 Occupy protesters who refused to leave the encampment in the square, but there was no similar drama on Sunday, as marchers spread out on the grass and caught up with each other in an atmosphere that was relatively low-key. More than a dozen police officers on bike and on foot, monitored the protest.

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A police spokesman said Sunday evening there were no arrests related to the gathering.

Among the Occupy alumni who returned to the square was John Ford, 31, of Plymouth, who served as an encampment librarian and emerged as a popular voice in the movement.

“It’s always hopeful when people show up,” he said of the anniversary gathering.


Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter@TAGlobe.