Alaska woman joins protests with "Occupy the Tundra" banner

ANCHORAGE, Alaska Sun Oct 16, 2011 7:58pm EDT

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - When Diane McEachern ventured out onto the foggy western Alaska tundra a week ago to show solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement, she had no idea her tiny demonstration would go viral.

McEachern, an assistant professor at the University of Alaska campus in Bethel, snapped a portrait of herself, accompanied by her three dogs, holding a hand-printed cardboard sign that read: "Occupy the Tundra."

She was kneeling on the frost-covered ground and dressed in proper Alaska gear for the season, including a borrowed musk-ox wool scarf to ward off the chill.

The idea was to express support for the Occupy movement that has been rallying in U.S. cities against a financial system protesters say most benefits corporations and the wealthy, but also to show a sense of humor, she said on Sunday.

"Part of it was whimsical, yes, but it was also authentic."

But after she posted her self-portrait on the "Occupy Wall Street" Facebook page, the response was overwhelming, and she said she found herself fielding inquiries from numerous national media outlets.

"Waking up to 200 friend requests... On a good day, five would make sense," she said. "I never thought it would get all the attention it has."

The tundra display was not McEachern's first such political demonstration. She said she stood alone on a Bethel street corner in 2003 in minus 40-degree weather to protest the U.S. invasion of Iraq, holding a sign that said: "It's never too cold to oppose war."

Now others in rural Alaska outposts are following her example. In the Aleutian island town of Unalaska, 10 residents braved the chilly beach on Saturday to snap an "Occupy the Bering Sea" photo, which they also posted on Facebook.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston)

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