John Harris of Lakewood this week went to Tampa Bay, Fla., site of the Republican National convention. But he didn’t go to praise the Grand Old Party; he was there to speak out against it.
Harris, 33, is an unemployed Army veteran and a self-proclaimed member of the “99 percent” – a term coined during the Occupy movement that rallied activists from Wall Street to Tacoma.
He returned to his home state of Florida to share his story at what he called the “convention of the one percent.”
“I’m just trying to get my voice heard,” Harris said by telephone. “Just so they know everybody’s not lazy in the 99 percent.”
Harris served in the Army for 10 years, beginning in 1997, and deployed twice to Iraq. Before enlisting, he earned a degree in aeronautical sciences from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida.
He moved to Lakewood in May with his wife, a soldier stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and an 8-year-old daughter. His last job, which he quit before relocating to the South Sound, was a minimum-wage restaurant position.
Now Harris wants to work as a flight instructor, but with flight time costing $175 per hour, the experience he needs is out of his price range.
Jobless and with student loan bills mounting, he went to Tampa to have his voice heard by those he believes bear some responsibility for his financial plight.
“The Republicans are trying to keep the poor poor and the rich rich,” Harris said. “They’re trying to keep all the money in their control.”
In Tampa, Harris said he planned to attend several events and speak out against the Republican agenda.
On Sunday before the convention started, he and hundreds of minimum-wage workers hit the streets of Tampa to spread their message by handing out fliers at what they called “painting the town 99.”
On Monday he protested a Republican Governors Association event and Tuesday was on hand for a Washington state fundraiser for candidates pushing the “one percent” agenda.
Harris made the trip because of his involvement with Working Washington, an interest group that strives for “good jobs and a fair economy,” according to the website.
Sage Wilson, spokesman for Working Washington, said the group funded the trip for Harris and one other activist.
“The idea is to show that there are real consequences from the economic policies they’re pushing down there,” Wilson said of the Republicans.
Harris said what he really wants is for both sides of the aisle in Congress to work together in reviving the nation’s economy.
“We’re all one here in the United States,” he said. “That’s what we need to be, we need to be united.”