More than 2,500 people marched through downtown Santa Rosa Saturday, protesting the concentration of wealth in America.
The Occupy Santa Rosa event, modeled on Wall Street protests that began last month, was twice as large as organizers expected, suggesting it is gaining mainstream momentum.
From the steps of City Hall, labor activist Ben Boyce fired up a mostly middle-age crowd, urging a moratorium on foreclosures, an end to Bush-era tax cuts and a national jobs program.
“Today is the tipping point,” Boyce said to a sea of signs and people shouting their support. “It's now time to re-take our democracy.”
Sounding a central theme to the national movement, other speakers railed against financial institutions as the cause of the recession that has led to high unemployment and economic ruin for millions.
“We're all clear who tanked our economy,” said Lisa Maldonado, executive director of the North Bay Labor Council. “It wasn't the public worker. It wasn't the public safety worker. It was Wall Street.”
An enthusiastic crowd yelled back, “That's right!”
Demonstrators then marched through downtown, filing past the transit mall, businesses and banks, chanting slogans and banging drums. Passing cars honked in support.
Wells Fargo employees watched the noisy procession from behind locked doors at the B Street branch.
“I'm pretty moved by what's happening here,” said Healdsburg retiree Richard Burg as a band played “When the Saints Go Marching In” outside Citibank.
As of late afternoon, there were no arrests, police said.
One police officer put the turnout at between 2,500 and 3,000. A event volunteer said it was 2,700.
Marchers returned to City Hall where people sprawled on the lawn, danced or played with children. Two young men climbed on the City Hall roof and unfurled banners.