This article was originally published in Connecticut College’s College Voice.
Now in its sixth week of action, the Occupy Wall Street movement has gained momentum across the globe, in local communities and on college campuses. Focused mainly on protesting social and economic inequity, corporate greed and the impact of finances on government, occupiers span across race, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic status and location.
Students at Connecticut College have protested both on Wall Street and in New London in solidarity with the movement, and have even formed a group on campus called CC Dissent. According to its Facebook page, the group is “an autonomous student organization dedicated to identifying, analyzing and confronting structures of power in our society. Through student-developed programs and discussions on and off campus, CC Dissent is exploring and reinforcing intersectional communities of activism among Conn students, faculty, staff, New Londoners and NESCAC schools. We are developing teach-ins, live ins, trips and weekly discussions, as well as partnering with Occupy New London to support the protests occurring daily downtown.”
The group uses measures and tactics that mirror those used on Wall Street, including General Assemblies, where committees discuss their thoughts and needs without a formal leadership component, as well as “stack lists,” in which protesters can voice their opinions. Typically, people who are traditionally underrepresented, including women and minorities, are prioritized in the stacks.
According to Eliza Bryant ’12 who is an organizer for CC Dissent, “We recognize the imperfections of a representative democracy and seek to avoid reproducing them in the way that we govern ourselves.”
In addition to protesting, CC Dissent held a dialogue in Coffee Grounds on October 19, discussing ideas for the future of the movement on campus. Using “temperature checks” the moderators of the group were able to gauge how students and faculty felt about ideas, including a campus march, a photo project, returning to New York City and joining forces with other NESCAC schools.
One of the major points of discussions at the dialogue was on the concept of the 99%, which has become something of a mantra for Occupy Wall Street. Professor Ed McKenna from the Economics Department argued that, “if you look at what’s happened with the distribution of income from the past 15 years, what you’ll discover is virtually all income gains that have taken place have gone to the top 1%. In fact, most of the gains have gone to the top one tenth percent of that one percent. So I think what it’s referring to is that, even though there’s been some growth in the economy, it’s going to a very tiny slice of the population. That is not sustainable, societies can’t thrive if everything goes to a tiny percentage.”
Many of the ideas discussed in the dialogue have come to fruition, including occupying New London and supporting the local movement, and beginning to organize students to return to New York City on November 5, which is Guy Fawkes Day. Guy Fawkes, as portrayed in the comic book V for Vendetta and later in the 2006 movie, inspires the overthrow of a future totalitarian society. The sinister mask Fawkes wears has become iconic in the movement.