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Monday, April 21, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 56.0° F  Fair
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Occupy Madison participants focus on wealth gap, downward mobility


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At one point, Kyle Hanson believed in the American dream. He spent five years in the military and four in college. By the time he graduated in May with a business degree in general management he had been looking for a job for more than six months. It's now been a year and he still hasn't found anything. He is deflated and angry.

"I feel like the system has worked against me," says Hanson, 27, moments before he and about 80 other protesters taking part in Occupy Madison leave Reynolds Park on Sunday to march to the Capitol. "There are many people suffering from the actions of a very few people."

It's a familiar theme of the Occupy Wall Street protests that launched Sept. 17 in New York City and have spread to cities across the country. "Until we get our voices back there's no real change that's going to happen," Hanson adds. "It's not happening from the top down."

The widening income gap Hanson alludes to is reflected in signs and T-shirts worn by some of those taking part in Occupy Madison: "We are the 99 percent," they read.

Bill Fetty says the protesters at Occupy Madison were there for a variety of reasons: Some experienced sharp pay cuts due to Walker's proposals and some were inspired by the protests in New York. Many are simply at the end of their rope. "For a lot of people, it's just too much to take anymore," he says.

The crowd numbers waxed and waned over the weekend, but even the warm, sunny weather on Sunday afternoon did not draw more than 100 to the park. That didn't mean the occupation wasn't having an impact, says Scot Ross, executive director of One Wisconsin Now, who spent time at the protest throughout the weekend.

"It's a reminder to the greater community that right now things are not fair," says Ross. Keeping people mindful of how "thirsty they are," he adds, "is the most important thing you can do."

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