Alaska woman takes Occupy Wall Street protest to tundra

ANCHORAGE — When Alaskan Diane McEachern heard about the Occupy Wall Street protests, she thought, “How can I get in on that?”

Soon after, she marched onto the tundra near her home, where she was pictured with a homemade cardboard sign bearing her protest message: “Occupy the Tundra.”

Little did McEachern, 52, know then that her effort — and the photo of herself bundled up against the cold and holding her sign, with her three rescue dogs by her side — would become one of the more famous images of the Occupy Wall Street protest movement.

“It felt good to stand out there,” she said Monday from her home in Bethel, a town of several thousand people that’s not connected to any major road system.

“I think that Wall Street symbolizes the way our entire economic system affects every part of the United States from a small tundra community to a thriving metropolis like New York,” she said.

The photo taken earlier this month has been shared by thousands of people online after being posted on an “Occupy Wall St.” Facebook page on Oct. 8. As of Tuesday, 8,800 people indicated they liked the photo.

The photo of McEachern crouched on the frosted tundra stands in contrast to other widely used photos of the movement that show mass protests in cities that include New York, Seattle and San Diego.

She accompanied her photo with this message: “Lonely vigil in remote Alaska. I’m wearing a muskox neck warmer (that is not a beard on my face) and I am a woman .... The day is chill. The sentiment is solid. Find your spot. Occupy it. Even if it is only your own mind. Keep this going...”

McEachern is an assistant professor in the rural human services program at the University of Alaska’s Kuskokwim campus and a Bethel resident of 14 years. She’s seen tough times on the tundra become tougher, especially now when gas prices are over $6.30 a gallon and jobs are scarce, she said.

Her one-person protest is catching on. Someone approached her at work Monday and offered to join her on the tundra this weekend. She said there’s a message in that, too.

“’Diane is not alone out there.’ I like that,” she said.

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