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Bohemian Grove encampment brings the 1%

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THROUGH THE YEARS A flyer illustration from the first Bohemian Grove protest in 1980; the '1%' exactly.
  • THROUGH THE YEARS A flyer illustration from the first Bohemian Grove protest in 1980; the '1%' exactly.

Every July, air traffic at the Sonoma County Airport jumps 10 percent. While private jets line the tarmac, caravans of limousines follow narrow roads along the Russian River as Sonoma County hosts 2,000 of the world's richest and most powerful men at the Bohemian Club's summer encampment.

This July 14, in the largest planned protests of the club's gathering in a decade, Occupy Bohemian Grove will be there to greet them.

Reinvigorated by the Occupy movement, protesters from as far away as Japan will head to Monte Rio this Saturday to take part in the mission to "expose the 1%." Though various sensationalized reports and conspiracy theorist groups have piggybacked the protests, demonstrators gather this year for the same reason they always have: to draw attention to the Bohemian Grove as a place where self-identified elites network and participate in off-the-record talks that affect the public.

As evidenced by leaked camp programs, university research and testimonials of famous Bohemians, the protesters' allegations aren't far from the truth. Though the camp's secrecy makes it hard to determine exactly how much backroom dealing takes place, it's safe to say that there's more going on than gin fizzes with breakfast and piddling on redwoods in stop-and-go bursts.

A few miles down the Bohemian Highway from the Grove, in the spindly network of single-lane roads of Camp Meeker, lives Mary Moore, face of the 33-year-old Bohemian Grove Action Network (BGAN).

Moore, who stopped organizing the protest early in the last decade, decided to help resume it this year because of its relevance to the Occupy movement; the Bohemian Club's summer encampment perfectly personifies Occupy's concept of the 1%, she says. Though BGAN has long used terms like "movers and shakers" and "fat cats" to describe the Bohemian Club, Occupy's rhetoric took the words off the tip of Moore's tongue.

"Now, 'the 1%,' if we'd invented that back in 1980—I slap myself—it could've been so much clearer over the years," Moore says, who turns 77 the day of the protest. "After 33 years of us shouting from the rooftops, these young folks came up with this all on their own."

Occupy complements BGAN not only in message, but by strengthening the local activist community. Lois Pearlman, another organizer of Occupy Bohemian Grove, says that the Occupy movement has "brought new blood and new ideas" to the Bohemian Grove protest. With 23 sponsoring groups ranging in scope from police accountability to Palestinian solidarity, Occupy Bohemian Grove seems less of an independently organized event as much as a product of a network of loosely connected groups.

That's just fine with Moore.

"The coalition-building is really the most important piece because it helps us get the bigger picture, and we understand how connected all these issues are," she explains.

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