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'Occupy is still alive and kicking'

 'Occupy is still alive and kicking'
An Occupy the Courts participant in Santa Ana on Friday wears the "V for Vendetta" mask that has come to be known as the chosen mask for protests around the world. (DON LEACH, Daily Pilot)

SANTA ANA — Occupy Orange County took a different turn Friday for the two-year anniversary of theU.S. Supreme Courtruling involving Citizens United.

They went for laughs.

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Still, the day in downtown Santa Ana was all about raising awareness of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the January 2010 decision that prohibited the government from limiting funds from independent parties, such as corporations and labor unions, for political purposes.

"People driving by will hopefully see the signs saying, 'Corporations are not people,' and, 'Your voice should not equal a dollar bill,' and take that [message] away from today," said Occupier Joanie Mullarkey of Irvine. "I hope people realize that Occupy is still alive and kicking."

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Occupiers rallied at Sasscer Park and the nearby Ronald Reagan Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse at 11 a.m. for Occupy the Courts, a nationwide demonstration, with signs, tables, live music and informative skits.

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Those skits, which included song-and-dance numbers, had an audience laughing and clapping along by noon.

"It helps get the message across," said Santa Ana resident Greg Tabat of a humorous skit. "It takes complicated concepts and brings them down to an understandable level."

While Tabat said he did not identify himself as an Occupier, he was there to show support for the movement which, among other things, aims to remove corporate spending from politics.

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"We're really trying to grow the movement and gain support," said an event organizer, Sera Beckham, 35, of San Clemente. "Eighty percent of Americans don't want corporate spending in politics."

Ultimately, a nationwide group, MoveToAmend.org, which is against the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling, is looking amend the Constitution, she said.

"It sounds impossible, but it's not," Beckham said. "It's going to be some work, sure, but we just all need to band together to make it happen."

Across the street from the live entertainment in the park, uniformed officers stood in front of a taped-off north entrance to the federal courthouse, while protesters stood with signs along West Fourth Street and manned tables stocked with brochures.

While it was not clear whether the officers were U.S. Marshals or from the Federal Protective Service, both of which provide security to the courthouse, the tape was the result of malfunctioning doors, which operate using a magnetic strip, said U.S. Marshals Los Angeles spokeswoman Laura Vega.

The closed doors were unrelated to the protest and had been closed off for days.

Santa Ana Police Department officers were also present. The Civic Center area is patrolled routinely by the department, said Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.

"Our job is to facilitate the 1st Amendment rights of protesters and make sure everybody is peaceful and that there are no problems," Bertagna said.

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The men and women in uniform went largely unnoticed by the protesters, who crowded on the sidewalk at Ross and Fourth streets.

Many of the protesters were from the Occupy O.C.-Irvine encampment, which agreed to leave the Irvine Civic Center on Jan. 11 and has since relocated to Fullerton.

Although they've moved, community outreach has not changed, said Occupier and Irvine resident Emahn Novid, 17.

"We have to get the word out," Emahn said. "We're trying to create change on a local level so that change can happen on a national level and get money out of politics because that's the root cause of a lot of our grievances."

Demonstrating this theme, Occupiers donned cardboard "corporation" costumes, designed to symbolize some of Wall Street's major players.

Occupiers Marselle Sloan as ExxonMobil, Charles Cha as General Electric, Vern Nelson as Monsanto and Brian Coveney as Goldman Sachs performed a five-minute skit and song routine titled "Corporations Are Not People" in front of the Sasscer Park fountain.

The number would be performed three times before the event's end at 6 p.m., said Cha, who had spent time at both of Occupy O.C.'s now-disbanded camps.

While the event lineup included many serious and passionate speakers, more skits with humor would be performed throughout the day.

"Art is a way to communicate a message," Cha said. "And humor is just makes it more palatable."

Twitter: @speters01

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