Occupy protest draws divided response

Hundreds of Occupy the Rose Parade protesters peacefully marched down Colorado Boulevard at the tail of the Rose Parade, carrying posters and a float to display their message of economic inequality.

The demonstration was part protest, part street theater, complete with costumed characters portraying billionaires, a 200-foot-long banner of the U.S. Constitution and a giant human float, “Occupy Octopus,” that was intended to represent Wall Street’s hold on the United States.

The crowd showed mixed reactions to the demonstration, with some parade-goers cheering and others booing the protesters. Pasadena resident Chris Grosvenor thought it was elaborate.

“Honestly, I think it’s a little over the top,” said the 16-year-old.

Other attendees complained the march blocked them from leaving the area following the parade.

“Pasadena went too far allowing them to have their own parade at the end of the parade,” said Kevin Cartwright of Trabuco Canyon.

Some watchers welcomed the group and said their message was important.

“It's great they're using this forum to get the word out,” said Chris Hansen, 48, of Pasadena, who watched the parade with his 8-year-old son, Jake. “I'm glad he's seeing this,” he added.

Peter Thottam, who organized the demonstration, spoke to demonstrators before the march near Pasadena City Hall, telling them, “This movement doesn't end here. This is only the beginning.”

Members of the group displayed banners calling for an end to bank foreclosures and chanted, “Banks got bailed out, you got sold out.”

Pasadena police upped the number of officers present during the parade to prepare for unrest, though police and Occupy the Rose Parade representatives engaged in talks in the weeks leading up to Jan. 2. Both sides agreed to allow Occupy demonstrators to peaceably assemble and deliver their message while not disrupting the Rose Parade.

Activists assembled a “peacekeeping” team before marching down Colorado Boulevard to prevent rowdy protesters from causing trouble or sparking arrests. Jodie Evans, of the anti-war group Code Pink, marched with Occupy the Rose Parade and backed its mild-mannered demonstration.

“This is one of the victories of the Occupy movement, where it is not a clash with police to celebrate free speech in this quintessential American event,” said Evans.

Los Angeles resident Ryan Masterson, 26, said that the clearing of Occupy encampments around the country prompted his interest in the group.

“I’m looking for ways to speak a positive message of change,” said Masterson. “It’s important to take this opportunity to be able to do that without getting arrested.”

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