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Upper middle-class Hernando County couple are unlikely Occupy organizers

Karen and Ray Stanbro are retired and live just north of the Citrus-Hernando county line. The upper-middle-class couple say they have a responsibility to show that the Occupy movement, which protests the financial and political systems, goes beyond the fringe.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Karen and Ray Stanbro are retired and live just north of the Citrus-Hernando county line. The upper-middle-class couple say they have a responsibility to show that the Occupy movement, which protests the financial and political systems, goes beyond the fringe.

ISTACHATTA — Ray and Karen Stanbro's 9-acre spread just north of the Hernando-Citrus border is about 1,100 miles from Wall Street, but it feels like a world away.

Visitors who pass through an iron gate are greeted by the couple's trio of dogs: Chase, Chance and Chalice. The well-appointed ranch home features vaulted ceilings, a stone fireplace and hardwood floors covered with Oriental rugs. A nearby barn is home to the couple's mare Shanteuse and two alpacas, Yin and Yang.

But the passion behind the Occupy Wall Street movement has reached even this bucolic setting.

The Stanbros are helping organize an Occupy Brooksville demonstration set for Nov. 17 in front of the old Hernando County courthouse. The couple and their fellow organizers are also joining forces with the Occupy Hernando event set for Saturday in front of the former Kmart store in Spring Hill.

Hernando might seem like an unlikely place for a movement that has spread mainly to cities since its inception in Manhattan two months ago. And the Stanbros, with their upper-middle-class standing, might seem like unlikely demonstrators against what Occupy proponents call broken political and financial systems.

But anger now runs deep in America, transcending generations, socioeconomic status and political party, the Stanbros say, so they have a responsibility to step up to show the movement now goes beyond the fringe.

"We're comfortable, but we're part of the problem as far as I'm concerned," said Ray, a 73-year-old former advertising executive whose company designed the Apple logo. "I've been apathetic for too many years and have just let what has happened go on."

Karen, a 67-year-old retired office manager, protested segregated schools and the Vietnam War. Now it's time to act again, she believes.

"If we had done more, maybe we wouldn't be in this mess," she said.

So, these days, one finds Ray — who came up with the slogan "Is it live or is it Memorex?" — working in a cramped office in the barn stenciling Occupy signs:

The roar you hear is the silent majority.

The buck stops where?

Hope doesn't get jobs, action does.

•••

Here's a refresher on how Occupy Wall Street made it to Europe and Asia and back to little ol' Hernando County.

In July, an anti-consumerist magazine called Adbusters called for "20,000 people flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades, and occupy Wall Street for a few months," demanding "democracy not corporatocracy."

A group of about 1,000 protesters gathered in Manhattan on Sept. 17, walked up and down Wall Street and eventually settled in nearby Zuccotti Park. Largely ignored by the media at first, the demonstration started to draw more coverage after some protestors were arrested, prominent figures like filmmaker Michael Moore and actor Susan Sarandon showed up, and large labor unions endorsed the effort.

By early October, Occupy-inspired demonstrations were under way in major cities such as Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., and in smaller cities such as Memphis and Tampa.

The supporters are mainly liberal groups associated with Democrats, so few were surprised to hear that Brian Moore, a local activist and perennial candidate for political office, and Hernando Democratic Executive Committee Chairman Steve Zeledon are helping to lead the Occupy Hernando effort.

Moore, who ran for president in 2008 as a Socialist candidate, acknowledges his resume makes conservatives cringe. But Americans need to focus on what they have in common, then set to work on solutions, he said.

"We're fed up with the debt, we're upset with the two-party system, we're upset with the corporate funders of our legislators," Moore said. "Commonality and community, as opposed to selfishness — we're being pushed in that direction by default."

That sentiment wasn't exactly reciprocated by Hernando Republican Executive Committee Chairman Blaise Ingoglia, who pounced last week when he heard Zeledon was involved.

"There may have been a day when Democrat party bosses in the South were centrists," Ingoglia wrote in a press release. "Those days have passed. Now, even here at the local level, we see these Democrat leaders are willing to coordinate with those who push the most extreme, socialist political agenda."

In response, Moore and fellow organizer Joe Lemieux of Spring Hill sent open letters of invitation to conservatives.

Ingoglia is not swayed. Smaller government and budget reform are already coherent, nonpartisan messages, he said.

"In my opinion, both parties are aware of the challenges facing this nation, but the difference lies in the ideology for the solutions," he said. "Liberal Dems think the Obama model of more government, more spending and class warfare is the answer. Conservative Republicans think this is actually the problem.

"If these local events mirror the Occupy protests going on around the nation," he said, "I cannot and would not advocate attending them."

•••

A CBS News/New York Times poll released this week highlighted the differences that demographics and party affiliation make in a person's perception of the movement.

Half of Americans ages 18 to 29 say they agree with the movement, according to the nationwide telephone poll of randomly selected adults. Just one in three Americans age 65 or older say the same. And two-thirds of liberals say they agree with Occupy Wall Street, compared with just one in four conservatives.

Overall, 43 percent of the respondents agreed with the views of the movement, and 27 percent said they disagree.

The Stanbros were watching news coverage of the Occupy Tampa demonstration when they felt compelled to act. They called Mike Holton, a 64-year-old Brooksville resident who retired at age 49 on profits from his automotive parts and service company.

Holton and Karen Stanbro are in the Brooksville Rotary Club, and Ray has helped with the club's service projects. They decided to set a demonstration for Brooksville after Occupy organizers called for nationwide demonstrations on Nov. 17.

The growing disparity of wealth in America has bothered Holton for years, but he never got involved. The Occupy movement called to him, he said.

"If you're in your 30s or 40s and have two or three kids, just trying to make your mortgage payment on your underwater house, you probably don't have much time to talk about an Occupy movement," Holton said. "We can stand up for those people. We're old farts. It's not going to impact us, but it's certainly going to impact our children and grandchildren. We're not leaving them a pretty picture."

Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or tmarrero@sptimes.com.

.if you go

Occupy demonstrations

Occupy Hernando will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday on a grassy strip of right of way in front of the old Kmart building at 2468 Commercial Way in Spring Hill. The Hernando County Farmers Market will be held at the same location, but the two events are not related. The demonstration does not require a permit, but Hernando Sheriff's Office Lt. Col. Royce Decker said deputies would be patrolling the area "and take necessary action, deemed lawful and appropriate, if public safety interests become an issue." For information, contact Brian Moore, (352)686-9936.

Occupy Brooksville will begin at noon Nov. 17 in front of the old courthouse at 20 N Main St. in downtown Brooksville and is expected to last into the afternoon. For information, call Ray Stanbro, (352) 754-9164.

Upper middle-class Hernando County couple are unlikely Occupy organizers 10/27/11 [Last modified: Thursday, October 27, 2011 8:00pm]
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