'It's not a partisan issue, it's a people issue'

IRVINE — Resting on his bicycle between two fellow riders, Newport Beach resident Jeff Yeargain waited and watched with apparent contempt as more than 500 people marched across his path toward a major Irvine intersection.

Stopped with his two friends, a businessman from Costa Mesa and a retired attorney from Irvine, Yeargain waited at Alton Parkway on the canal's riding path for the Occupy Wall Street movement's latest crop to pass by.

"They just want something for nothing," Yeargain said.

"It's a complete joke," one of his friends said, the other claiming the demonstrators were against capitalism and were probably brought in from the New York protests.

To those marching from Irvine's City Hall on Saturday afternoon, the three men's criticisms echo early sentiments about the tea party movement before the 2010 elections, when across the country folks spontaneously connected over the government's bailouts of banks and Detroit car companies.

Observers then noted the lack of leadership of the conservative movement and array of complaints among its participants. It wasn't until the election last year, when a number of freshmen Republicans beholden to their tea party constituents were swept into Congress, that the group's muscle become apparent.

Demonstrators on Saturday hope Occupy Wall Street is no different. Similar protests were reportedly sprouting up everywhere from Orange County and Los Angeles to the United Kingdom, South Korea and Japan.

"It should mobilize people come 2012," said Robin Kissel of Laguna Hills.

Kissel has been out of work for six months, and said while she has been holding out for a job equal to the one she lost, she's now going "stir crazy" and would settle for even a minimum-wage position.

Some in the crowd were unemployed like Kissel, such as Brandon Morales, 27, from Tustin. Morales was laid off as a financial analyst for an aviation company in Santa Ana three months ago. He graduated with a degree in philosophy in 2006 but has been depending on his experience as a financial analyst to land something new.

"Back then it was graduate with a degree, and then you get a job," he said. "Now, there's no work."

Orange County's unemployment is at 9%, which is about in line with the national average. California's unemployment is at 11.9%, according to the state Employment Development Department.

But not everyone marching Saturday needed a job.

Barbara Parker, a teacher from Laguna Hills, is frustrated with jobs going overseas and what she sees as unchecked influence by corporations and bankers on politicians.

"You can't take all the jobs away and expect the economy to recover," she said. "There's nobody that hasn't been touched by this. It's not a partisan issue, it's a people issue."

The complaints were many and the crowd diverse. There were senior citizens, young families with their toddlers and the college-aged who shouted the loudest and started chants like "The banks got bailed out, we got sold out!"

People railed against Wall Street and banks and called for more environmental protections. One protester carried a sign criticizing the Fullerton police after the recent death of Kelly Thomas.

But few signs offered specific solutions.

"If we knew the answer, we'd run for office!" Parker said laughing.


Twitter: @JosephSerna

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