LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Anti-Wall Street protesters hoping to commandeer a worldwide television audience to air their grievances said on Thursday they would peacefully “occupy” this year’s Rose Parade in Pasadena, California.
Calling on Occupy demonstrators from across the country to join them, organizers said they would set up encampments along the parade route and unfurl a 250-foot banner demanding an end to corporate influence on politics.
Protesters also planned to march in a massive “human float” down the Colorado Boulevard route after the Tournament of Roses parade, which this year is scheduled for Monday, January 2.
“It’s not rocket science. All we’re trying to do is use this event, a historical piece of Americana that is becoming increasingly militarized and corporatized, to get our message out to millions of people,” organizer Peter Thottam told Reuters in an interview.
The iconic Tournament of Roses Parade, which was first held on New Year’s Day in 1890, is broadcast on several U.S. television networks and in dozens of countries around the world.
Thottam, who in 2008 helped lead a protest of the Rose Parade that called for the impeachment of then-President George W. Bush, said the more than 100-year-old event offered the perfect opportunity to reach a global TV audience.
He said protest organizers had met with Pasadena police and Rose Parade staff and were committed to a nonviolent action that did not disrupt the parade.
“More than anything, we’re trying to draw the attention of the thousands of reporters and TV crews (covering the parade) to the growing level of disgust and anger at the polarization of wealth and at the banking sector’s power and influence, and at the shrinking middle class,” he said.
Thottam, who is affiliated with the OccupyLA movement, said that at least five “banking industry” floats were taking part in the parade this year and that nine others were underwritten by banks.
On their website, www.occupytheroseparade.org, organizers listed four primary demands and called on members of the Occupy movement across the country to join them.
A Pasadena police spokeswoman did not directly address the planned demonstration in a statement released on Thursday but said the department would collaborate with local, state and federal agencies to provide a “safe and wonderful” experience.
“Parade groups are encouraged to respect the rights of all who attend the parade, many of whom travel great distances with their families,” Lieutenant Phlunte Riddle said.
Representatives of the Tournament of Roses said its public relations department was not taking phone calls about the planned protest but would issue a statement later.
Occupy Wall Street activists launched their movement in New York in September to protest against economic inequality, corporate excesses, high unemployment and bailouts of major banks.
Protesters have since embraced a range of other causes, and in many cities the demonstrations have also focused on grievances about excessive police use of force.
Editing by Cynthia Johnston