Campus-oriented news, first-person reports from student activists and journalists about their campus.
Zuccotti Park, home to the Occupy Wall Street protests for the past two months, were raided by the NYPD late Monday night and early Tuesday morning. Police in riot gear evicted demonstrators to clean the park, citing "health and fire safety" hazards. Protesters were told to leave willingly or they would be subject to arrest.
Though the Supreme Court Justice ruled in favor of the city's orders, claiming that camping in a park wasn't free speech protected by the First Amendment, there were numerous other noteworthy instances of free speech violations.
The Society Of Professional Journalists made a statement on Tuesday condemning the arrests of reporters during the NYPD’s raid of Occupy Wall Street.
“The journalists were either wearing press credentials or explained to police that they were reporters covering the protests,” the statement explained. “They were clearly exercising the constitutional right of a free press...it is clear now that many journalists have been erroneously arrested without cause.”
News of the Occupy Wall Street “media blackout” sparked reactions from sympathetic students across the country.
“Mayor Bloomberg is a billionaire utilizing his office as a way to cut down freedom of speech,” Christopher Cooke of Idaho State University said in a phone interview. “As a student on a college campus, these instances are some of our last fashions of freedom of speech. If we don't claim it and utilize it, then they’re going to keep taking it away.” Cooke is a part of the Occupy movement at Idaho State University and is especially outraged at what he witnessed in New York from afar. “It’s laughable that people camp out for six days to see the next Twilight movie—they’re not being beat up.”
Students at Illinois State University are equally enraged. Ryan Latvaitis of Occupy Bloomington-Normal said in an email, “I find it deeply troubling that the press was ordered away from the occupation when police moved in. Press helicopters were told to ‘stay on the Jersey side’ at the very moment when the country needed an unhindered and independent press the most.” He continued, “But what I find most troubling, most disheartening, is that the country is ignoring these violations of our rights.”
“The point of solidarity with all of these movements and the point of being so upset about the lack of free speech is because of the larger goal to chip away at our rights, and this is the beginning of it,” Natalia Abrams, a University of California Los Angeles graduate and organizer with Occupy Colleges, said in a phone conversation.
“Apparently the press pass doesn’t matter anymore,” Abrams said. “It used to be able to protect you from that type of treatment.”
Protesters post signs atop a University of California at Berkeley building as they participate in an Occupy Cal rally outside Sproul Hall Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2011. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
A crowd of about 3,500 packed into Upper Sproul Plaza Tuesday evening, convening a general assembly where they voted overwhelmingly to re-establish an encampment, despite the police violence that marked encampment efforts last week.
The demonstrators gathered on Sproul for the Occupy Cal general assembly, which followed the Open University strike activities and march earlier in the day. The assembled individuals voted on three proposals, the first of which was whether to organize a debate on public education with a variety of public officials, including members of the campus administration, the UC Board of Regents and Gov. Jerry Brown.
Additionally, they voted on proposals regarding whether to send an open letter to individuals including the UC Board of Regents, the CSU Board of Trustees and unspecified education administrators, as well whether to re-establish an encampment.
All three proposals passed with an overwhelming number of votes with margins far exceeding the 80 percent requirement for any proposal to be passed by the assembly.
“I believe we should continue and stay, to assemble and to build on these steps a truly free university,” said Amanda Armstrong, graduate student and campus head steward for United Auto Workers Local 2865.
Efforts to establish an encampment at the protests last Wednesday were met with police actions that have drawn criticism, attracted national attention and elicited public outcry from a wide range of concerned groups and campus community members.
Prior to the assembly’s meeting, campus Graduate Assembly President Bahar Navab advised students how to peacefully submit oneself to police in the event of arrest, a statement that was met with jeers from the assembled crowd.
“When the police return to beat us into submission, stand strong,” said UC Berkeley senior Morgan Crawford, at a later point during the assembly. Crawford said he was beaten by the police at last Wednesday’s encampment.
At the end of the meeting, around 15 police officers lingered near the outskirts of the assembled group, monitoring. Legal observers wearing neon green hats were also dispersed throughout the crowd.
Just prior to the assembly, the crowd was joined by around 300 demonstrators from Occupy Oakland and unaffiliated city residents, who were all included in votes to decide the group’s future actions.
“I think this whole Occupy situation is good for our world,” said Berkeley resident Nick Fikaris, who was present at the general assembly. “We need some kind of change. And that’s why I’m here, to see the change happen.”
For each proposal, time was given for small groups to discuss options before the floor was opened up to speakers who had a limited amount of time to present their viewpoints. Afterwards, votes were taken and tallied.
Towards the end of the allotted time for the general assembly, the crowd swelled even further in anticipation of UC Berkeley public policy professor and former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich’s much-anticipated Mario Savio Memorial Lecture.
The general assembly concluded just after 8 p.m., with facilitators declaring the group’s intention to continue convening at 6 p.m. every day, indefinitely.
This article was originally published in Cal State, Northridge's award-winning student newspaper, The Daily Sundial. Follow the paper on Twitter to keep up with its excellent coverage of the Occupy movement.
College students have risen in solidarity across Southern California and joined the Occupy movement, albeit in small numbers.
“It’s my life right now,” said USC student Alexandra Howland. Howland lives on campus, but has taken up a temporary home outside City Hall at the Occupy LA encampment. She sleeps in a tent on the lawn, wakes up every morning at 6:30 a.m. to drive to school, and comes back in the early evening to protest with fellow Occupiers. She starts homework around 11 p.m., goes to sleep and repeats the routine.
“It’s the most exciting thing I’ve ever been a part of,” she said. “To have the youth and the American public finally waking up and rejecting the system that’s been forced on us, it’s amazing.”
Ankur Patel, a CSUN graduate student, said this is a time for students to be more aware of their world. “We want people to start paying attention. We want people to know who their city councilman is, who their state assemblyman is, all of their elected officials,” said Patel, a committee member of Students Occupy Los Angeles. “Most people know more about American Idol and the Dodgers than they do about elected officials.”
Occupy CSUN has gathered an average of about 50 students to its weekly rallies, according to student organizer James Ackerman. Those numbers are more than what USC or UCLA have had for their movements.
Howland said 40 students showed up for USC’s first campus rally in late October, but the numbers decreased to about a handful the second week. There aren’t any more currently scheduled. “People got sidetracked with school and with their lives, I guess,” she said.
The Daily Bruin reported UCLA’s Occupy movement has been slow to take off as well. Still, students part of Occupy UCLA participated in a rally that included 200 protesters against tuition hikes on Wilshire Boulevard last Wednesday, resulting in 11 arrests.
Authorities have had to act up north as well.
On November 9 At UC Berkeley, police in riot gear moved in when protesters refused to leave the encampment they had set up on campus. According to the school’s student paper, 39 people were arrested in a demonstration that was reportedly in the hundreds.
At Occidental College, in Eagle Rock, student Guido Girgenti represents his campus in Occupy Colleges, a virtual network working in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street. According to Girgenti, about 100 participants showed at Occidental up for the Nov. 2 National Solidarity Teach-in — a protest for campuses nationwide that brought students and professors together in an open-ended discussion about their school’s issues. Girgenti called Occidental’s teach-in attendance “very surprising,” considering its student population hovers around 2,000 and the school generally brings in higher-income students. The website occupycolleges.org had 87 schools registered in the US for the teach-in, including 12 in California, and had helpful guidelines on how to handle to event.
Girgenti cited the financial crisis of 2008 as a reason for any student to take notice. “(That crisis) has made tons of students’ middle-class living standards very precarious,” he said.
At UC Irvine, recent graduate Brendan Rosen attended the campus teach-in and said about 40 students showed up. “Indirectly, we’re protesting tuition increases,” said Rosen, who cited unfair government spending as another problem he and Irvine students have voiced.
The question now is where to go from here. USC and UCLA are not fully mobilized for the time being, and the main hub for students still seems to be downtown LA.
“It’s easier for us to organize off-campus,” Girgenti said.
Patel said different factors play a role in whether certain rallies or marches can be successful for students. “In some places they’re not going to run into police oppression, in some places they’re not going to get their permits,” Patel said. “In some places they’re not going to have enough people.”
A Los Angeles Times article last month quoted Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa as saying the protest at City Hall “cannot continue indefinitely,” and he has told city officials to draft a plan to find a new place for the demonstration.
Rosen said he feared the long-term status of Occupy LA could be up in the air, so his goal is to further strengthen the campus protests. “There’s a lot of risk that they’re going to get shut down,” Rosen said. “There are a lot of weekly meetings on all the campuses. It might take the movement in a different direction.”
At Northridge, Patel said Occupy CSUN is taking “baby steps.” “No one ever knows how movements are going to end up,” he said.
An American flag flies over the empty Occupy Wall Street encampment at Zuccotti Park as dawn breaks, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2011 in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Around 1 AM last night, word spread that the NYPD was raiding Zuccotti Park. Sure enough, ominous lines of cops decked out in riot gear appeared on the livestream, proclaiming that protesters needed to get their stuff and leave the park or they would be arrested.
Down at the park, the NYPD cordoned off entire blocks, prohibiting everyone, even press, from entering. Inside, the police cleared out all the tents and supplies, throwing them into large dumpster trucks. They even disposed of the 5000-volume People’s Library. When they were finished, Zuccotti Park was empty.
Outside the perimeter, police threatened marching protesters with arrests. The march was marred by several jarring incidents of violence. The first that we witnessed was at approximately 2:45 a.m., when we saw one Katherine Garuvis beaten and kicked in the back by police outside of the Fulton subway stop. Other notable conflicts occurred at approximately 3:15 a.m. at Grand and Centre Streets, where we saw at least four people beaten with batons, and around 3:30 a.m. at Spring and Broadway, where we were unable to determine the number of protesters involved. The police generally arrested or beat protesters that ran into the street after being told to stay on the sidewalk.
The march crisscrossed Broadway, chugging up from Foley Square through Chinatown and SoHo. It was a surreal sight to see a protester get wrestled to the ground, beaten, and arrested right in front of a Chase bank and Lucky Brand Jeans. City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez was apparently beaten and arrested around 2:45 a.m.; he is now in Central Booking with the other dozens of protesters arrested last night.
Last night’s march revolved around occupying the middle of the street. Around 2:45, we began moving up Broadway, and once we hit Barclay Street, some four or five hundred protesters began walking in the middle of the road. It was a clever idea, if only for the effect: the voice of every protester boomed against Broadway’s giant buildings, making it seem as though there were hundreds more people than were actually marching. When we walked back down to Zuccotti from Soho at around 4 a.m., protesters once again took to the middle of Broadway and Lafayette.
Throughout the night, the conflict between the protesters and organization was at least as strong as the one between protesters and police. The cries of “mic check!” became progressively less effective as the night wore on—protesters were unsure where to go. At West 4th and Broadway—right next to NYU—the protesters split between walking to Washington Square Park and going back down to Zuccotti. Complicating matters were the loud roars of a few combative assholes, looking to turn a late-night march into a war against cops. Meanwhile, the police took advantage of the protesters’ indecisiveness. On multiple occasions, they blocked crosswalks and directed marchers down alleys in order to split up the protest.
I had the pleasure of co-facilitating a discussion about feminism and the 99 percent movement on Thursday, November 9, sponsored by the Women’s and Gender Studies department at Syracuse University. My co-facilitator, RisaC'DeBaca, a fellow senior Women’s and Gender Studies major, provided her insight as one of the main organizers within the Occupy Syracuse movement and a longtime community activist.
We talked about the ways the Occupy movement has been depicted in the media and how that representation plays a role in the general public’s perception of Occupy Wall Street and national Occupy movements everywhere.
A number of disparate issues were raised by the participants -- about twenty graduate students, professors, and a few of our classmates and friends.
Here are some of the biggest takeaways:
Risa smartly argued that a key reason why Occupy Wall Street has swept the nation is because we’re coming off a revolutionary year for political discourse and social change. In 2011 alone, we bore witness to a wide variety of inspiring and enraging social uprisings—The Arab Spring protests, defunding of Planned Parenthoods nationwide, and the execution of Troy Davis to name a few—and the initial Occupy Wall Street protest on September 17 was essentially the icing on the cake for those who accumulated a sense of growing anger and passion.
The general public has speculated on what exactly women’s roles are in the Occupy movement. Why do women care? One professor put it simply when she pointed out that women and children make up the majority of people in poverty in this country, so the issues and demands of Occupy directly affect this group of Americans. Social issues aside, females in the US face economic struggles and hardship greater than their male counterparts—salary and payment inequalities, issues of childcare, and maternal healthcare.
Identifying with the 99 percent majority in the Occupy movement is not limited to a financial bracket or economic income. There are more involved and complex ways that individuals do and don’t fall within the 99 percent category, and it’s important to realize that this logic goes beyond literal monetary reality.
If the Occupy movement is going to continue evolving beyond two months of physical protests, there’s a critical need to occupy other spaces as well. This social movement is not limited to people who opt to sleep in tents in parks and plazas—activists can utilize the Internet and social networking tools to organize and effectively change the status quo, individuals can host teach-ins and educate the public outside of Occupy camps, and writers and thinkers can make the conscious decision to focus on and cover news around the social movement. Everyone can be an occupier and every spot can be "Occupied."
On Wednesday, November 9th, Berkeley undergraduate Margaret Zhou was one of roughly 500 students to link arms around the Occupy Cal encampment as the police vowed to take the tents down. The student activists were beaten with batons, and shoved to the ground when they refused to break the link. After the police tore down the tents, the demonstrators, including students and community members from Occupy Oakland and Occupy San Francisco, crowded onto the steps of Sproul Hall, still refusing to leave, where they were again beaten and told to disperse. Finally, after hours of holding their ground, the crowd was allowed to stay on the steps and hold a general assembly, during which they decided their next steps. A proposal to organize a state-wide strike of higher education that will take place on Tuesday, November 15th, won with a 95 percent consensus. It was also decided that general assembly meetings would take place daily on the Sproul steps at 6:00pm, with the hopes of building and sustaining an Occupy Cal movement. The next day, Chancellor Birgeneau sent a mass email to UC Berkeley faculty and students titled “Letter to Campus Community.” In her response to the letter below, Margaret explains the reasoning behind the Occupy Cal movement and the greater movement for public education in California.
Dear Chancellor Birgeneau,
As a Berkeley student and one of the protestors who peacefully demonstrated on Sproul Plaza on November 9, I am deeply offended by your "Message to Campus Community." Students and professors, not only on this campus but across the UC system, note how you shift the blame for Wednesday night's violence away from your inability to fulfill your role as Chancellor and onto the students who were standing up for the social value of a right to public education, and for all their peers for whom they wish to secure this right.
You and the UC Regents have a responsibility to lobby the State of California on our behalf, to secure state funding for what should be a public university. You have many ways of doing this--from supporting progressive tax policies to opposing the policies that have created an overcrowded prison system that takes so much funding away from public education. There are so many factors that have led to the disaster in public education in California, and there are so many fronts for you to fight on, but we see you fighting on none of them. We see you agreeing to the cuts, and trying to find other private methods of raising money. This is not what we stand for, so there is no exaggeration in saying that you are not representing our interests. Because we did not elect you or the Regents, this so-called "public university" is actually a private and un-democratic one.
In your message, you discuss our wanting to make an encampment as if that was all we wanted out of the university, as if that was our end goal we wanted to achieve from the protests. You skillfully construct that narrative and claim that we have disobeyed your one and only request that we not use tents, making our efforts seem antagonistic and childish. In reality, we would not be putting up tents if the State gave us more funding, and if you and the Regents lobbied state government do so. You are putting the blame for last night's violence on us, and shifting the attention away from your own failure to stand up for our rights, your failure to fulfill his responsibility as Chancellor, and the State's failure to prioritize the social good of public education.
You also make some remarks about the protestors who were arrested that are deeply hypocritical. You write that you and the University honor the fact that these people were engaging in "non-violent struggle" (which in fact was violent, though not on their part, because many of those who were arrested were beaten by police first before being handcuffed). If you and the University truly honored these people, you would honor their requests that you and the Regents DO SOMETHING for them. These people are not asking to be arrested, they are asking the people in power to change the system of indebtedness and inequality that put public education at the bottom. And we are saying to you, to the Regents, and to the State, that if you don't do that for us, we will do everything in our power to do it for ourselves. Looking at the state we are in now, you clearly have no reason to be in your current position of power anymore.
Your final, most insulting remark, is that you ask the Occupy Cal movement to consider the best interests of the larger campus community, those who didn't participate in the protests. This makes it seem as if the protestors, again, were just engaging child's play for their own amusement. We protestors are standing up for the larger campus community more you ever have. We put our bodies on the line; there were times we really feared for our lives (the cops were holding guns with rubber bullets and there were rumors of tear gas). We didn't do it for fun, or just for ourselves. We did it so that students who are with us and those come after us will have the opportunity to public education without a future of indebtedness, for the fundamental right to education in our society. If we don't fight for the public education system which is so quickly being dismantled in front of our eyes, it will be gone before we know it, and all forms of learning in this state will be once and for all privatized. This is our greatest fear, and this is what we fight against. We don't fight against the cops, or the order not to build encampments. Even though that order has no legality behind it and violated our constitutional right to freedom of assembly, in the end that isn't our greatest concern.
The students of the 1960s who fought for our right to free speech at a time when that right was being dismantled, and the students of the 1980s who erected shantytowns on Sproul to get the university to divest from South African apartheid are our inspiration--they fought for the general student bodies of successive generations. It is to them that we, not only Berkeley students but students across the world who are receiving public education, owe so many of the rights we have now. It is once again time for us to uphold those rights and make sure that all the struggles of the past were not won in vain. WE are the university.
UC Berkeley Third Year Student
Comparative Literature Major,
Global Poverty and Practice Minor
Our media coverage is often dominated by one big story that crowds out most everything else. As an antidote, every week, Nation interns try to cut through the echo chamber and choose one good article in their area of interest that they feel should receive more attention. Please check out their favorite stories below, watch for this feature each week, and please use the comments section below to alert us to any important articles you feel warrant broader attention.
Angela focuses on money in politics.
“As Political Groups Push Envelope, FEC Gridlock Gives ‘De Facto Green Light,’” by Marian Wang. ProPublica, November 7, 2011.
The Supreme Court rewrote federal campaign finance law nearly two years ago with its landmark Citizens United decision, but the Federal Election Commission has yet to address key questions that have arisen in the wake of the ruling. ProPublica’s Marian Wang examines the “deep ideological divide” fueling their inaction.
Cal follows the drug war and human rights in Latin America.
“Voters Elect Presidents in Nicaragua and Guatemala,” by Brian Finlayson. NACLA Report on the Americas, November 9, 2011.
While US government officials have expressed concern that the re-election of Sandinista leader and former Marxist guerilla Daniel Ortega for a third term at the Nicaraguan presidency will signify his manipulation of the election process to run in perpetuity, a more worrying case is the election of former general Otto Pérez Molina as Guatemala’s chief executive. Pérez won the election presumably over his declaration to deal with the violence and influence of Mexican drug cartels with “an iron fist.” However, human rights advocates like Jennifer Harbury have accused the right wing politician and School of Americas graduate of actively participating in the massacres of Mayan civilians and guerillas during the country’s civil war, saying Pérez helped to direct the torture, imprisonment and possible killing of Mayans in the Quiche Highlands in 1982 and other torture campaigns between 1992 and 1993, when Pérez was head of intelligence. If the allegations are true, Pérez’s election signifies a trend of voters appealing to caudillos, the right-wing military strongmen who became notorious for their human rights abuses in Latin America throughout the 1970s and ’80s.
Teresa focuses on “Global South” politics, or sociopolitical developments in areas of the developing world.
“South Sudanese fear impact of farming deals,” by Katrina Manson. Financial Times, November 6, 2011.
South Sudan has only been an independent country since July—but nearly 10 percent of its land is already owned by foreign interests. A diverse group of private equity firms and hedge funds are taking part in a “land grab” throughout Eastern Africa, purchasing millions of hectares of land to (ostensibly) grow food for the global market and provide much needed jobs and development to the region. Activists accuse the companies of displacing local farmers and monopolizing precious arable land in desert countries— then hiring foreign nationals, and using the land to grow non-edible crops for biofuels. Unsurprisingly, much of the land bought by private equity firms in South Sudan also contains valuable oil and mineral deposits. This is one of several recent articles about the latest African “land grab,” which may ultimately displace millions of people. To learn more about it, check out this great report by Al Jazeera.
Paolo follows war, peace, and security.
“Highway to Homs,” by John Pedro Schwartz. Foreign Policy, November 4, 2011.
Between travel journalism and war reporting: the riveting story of a motorcycle ride across the twin flashpoints of the Syrian uprising, Hama and Homs. A trip that shows the complexity of a country slowly slipping into chaos.
Erika follows the environmental beat.
“He who pays the paupers…: Who will foot the bill for green development in poor countries?” The Economist, November 5, 2011.
At the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit, the US committed to mobilize $100 billion a year in climate change aid to developing countries by 2020. The Economist article I chose for this week cites a recent study by the think tank Climate Policy Initiative, which found that around $97 billion a year in “climate finance” is already going to developing countries. There are several definitional problems with this “climate financing” though. Most of it is from private lenders in rich countries, and multinational banks, not from Western governments. Most of this financing would have happened anyways as development projects; and most of it has to be paid back, though developing countries are largely not responsible for climate change. This points toward how climate aid will be defined at the upcoming climate conference in Durban, South Africa. The Economist states that private sector financing should be the model for the Green Fund to be established at the Durban conference, because it is the only way that Western governments can “afford” it. The author also suggests developing countries look to “become more attractive recipients of investment, green or otherwise,” for example by liberalizing financial sectors. Sounds like more disaster capitalism.
Josh covers the labor beat.
“Tar Sands Protest Shows Unity, Tension in Green-Labor Alliance,” by Michelle Chen. In These Times, November 8, 2011.
As the debate over the Keystone XL pipeline heats up, so has the controversy it provokes within the labor movement. The AFL-CIO has avoided comment as some unions back the pipeline for the sake of immediate job creation and others join the movement to avert it for the sake of the climate. Chen argues that Keystone exemplifies the difficulty of sustaining progress towards a labor-environmentalist coalition in the face of persistent high unemployment.
Eli looks at the intersection of politics, ideas and economics from a macro perspective.
“Libertarianism and Liberty: How Not to Argue for Limited Government and Lower Taxes,” T. M. Scanlon. Boston Review, October 19, 2011.
With liberals and conservatives frequently trading blows over such phrases as “market fundamentalism,” it’s worthwhile to consider every once in a while where the justification (or lack thereof) for complete market freedom comes from. While the identification of liberty with free markets and the right to property has been debated a fair amount over the years, Harvard philosopher T.M. Scanlon has a provocative new discussion of the issue in Boston Review.
Collier’s beat is discrimination.
“Defeating Personhood: A Critical But Incomplete Victory for Reproductive Justice,” by Loretta Ross. RH Reality Check, November 9, 2011.
Last night Mississippi became the second state in the Union to squash a proposed amendment that would effectively ban a woman’s right to choose. In the past months pro-choice organizations and supporters have poured money and bodies into campaigns designed to get Mississippians to vote down the proposition. And vote it down they did. Indeed a remarkable win for the pro-choice movement, it is important for us to pause and rejoice. Pause.
A law that did pass in Mississippi last night—a more insidious proposition resembling antiquated Jim Crowe laws—that will require voters to produce a government issued ID card at the polls should urge us go back to work. Pro-choice activist Loretta Ross gives a bone-chilling reaction to last night’s electoral victory, chiding her constituency for its tunnel vision.
Allie follows human rights.
“Congressional GOP Pushes Zygote Personhood Bills,” by Nick Baumann. Mother Jones, November 8, 2011.
In a reaction to the vote on a Mississippi amendment that would grant personhood to zygotes, Mother Jones takes a sweeping view of “nearly identical” bills with strong Republican endorsement in Congress. The extremely prohibitive bills may effect the usage of the morning-after pill and IUDs, and would make abortion “legally equivalent to murder.”
Jin follows the US’s image in international media.
“Poor countries or poor people? Development assistance and the new geography of global poverty,” by Ravi Kanbur and Andy Sumner. VOX, November 8, 2011.
Twenty years ago, more than 90 percent of the world’s poor lived in low-income countries (LICs), and now, more than 70 percent of the poorest, a “new bottom billion,” live in middle-income countries (MICs), 60 percent of them in five populous new MICs, China, Pakistan, India, Nigeria and Indonesia. The authors of this article, an economist and a development expert, argue that the new geography of global poverty needs to be considered in the World Bank’s development assistance policy making, but fail to provide a critical rethinking of the effectiveness of the apolitical development assistance framework in combating global poverty.
This release was issued this morning by Occupy Harvard.
At 10:30 pm on November 9, hundreds of Harvard students and affiliates put down tents to begin an occupation of Harvard Yard. Currently, thirty tents occupy the Yard in solidarity with the global Occupy movement. Earlier Wednesday, around 800 Harvard students, faculty, staff, and community members gathered in a rally, general assembly, and march to Occupy Harvard. Harvard is a diverse community that includes both the 1% and the 99%; we occupy here in solidarity with the global Occupy movement and with Occupy Boston.
We are Occupy Harvard. We want a university for the 99%, not a corporation for the 1%.
We are here in solidarity with the Occupy movement to protest the corporatization of higher education, epitomized by Harvard University.
We see injustice in the 180:1 ratio between the compensation of Harvard’s highest-paid employee—the head of internal investments at Harvard Management Company—and the lowest-paid employee, an entry-level custodial worker. We see injustice in Harvard’s adoption of corporate efficiency measures such as job outsourcing. We see injustice in African land grabs that displace local farmers and devastate the environment. We see injustice in Harvard’s investment in private equity firms such as HEI Hotels and Resorts, which profits off the backbreaking labor of a non-union immigrant workforce. We see injustice in Harvard’s lack of financial transparency and its prevention of student and community voice in these investments.
We stand in solidarity with Occupy Boston and the other occupations throughout the country. We stand in solidarity with students at other universities who suffer crushing debt burdens and insufficient resources. We stand in solidarity with the students who occupied Massachusetts Hall one decade ago, and we continue their pursuit of justice for workers. We stand in solidarity with all those in Boston and beyond who clamor for equity. We are the 99%.
A university for the 99% must settle a just contract with Harvard’s custodial workers. A university for the 99% must adopt a new transparency policy, including disclosure of Harvard’s current investments as well as a commitment to not reinvest in HEI Hotels & Resorts or in land-grabbing hedge funds like Emergent Asset Management. Further,
A university for the 99% would offer academic opportunities to assess responses to socioeconomic inequality outside the scope of mainstream economics.
A university for the 99% would implement debt relief for students who suffer from excessive loan burdens.
A university for the 99% would commit to increasing the diversity of Harvard’s graduate school faculty and students.
A university for the 99% would end the privilege enjoyed by legacies in the Harvard admissions process.
A university for the 99% would implement a policy requiring faculty to declare conflicts of interest.
Our statement of principles is subject to change by the Occupy Harvard General Assemblies.
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.
“Our next steps as a group are to organizing fundraising events and teach-ins and discussions on campus as well as a permanent occupation of some place on campus, Zuccotti Park-style. We want to start making a big splash. Stay tuned for a Latin American food night in Coffee Grounds and for an event series featuring panel discussions with professors about OWS as well as documentaries regarding the current state of our society and government,” Bryant said.
CC Dissent also recently appealed to Connecticut College’s SGA at Open Forum on October 27, bringing along over fifteen supporters, including a professor, staff members and New London residents.
According to a member of SGA, CC Dissent wants SGA to sign a letter of support for the Occupy Wall Street movement, following the example of multiple peer institutions. Several community members voiced opposition to the letter, stating that Occupy Wall Street demonizes the financial services industry. The CC Dissenters were quick to assure, however, that the intention of the movement was not to demonize the financial sector.
After a short discussion during open forum about how best to address this question, including voting support, holding a student referendum and excluding SGA participation, the group ultimately decided to vote on the measure next week, so that Senators and other SGA members could gather information and viewpoints from their constituents.
According to Bryant, “Personally, I’m not sure if we will get support from either because that would entail the college making a political statement that, if publicized, could affect the school’s reputation. Obviously, support for the movement is not good publicity in everyone’s opinion.”
“Although the movement is gaining traction and generating a following on campus that is difficult to dismiss, it would not be in the wisest interests of our administration to directly endorse Occupy Wall Street,” said Devin Cohen ’12. “Any academic institution should be obliged to maintain a strict sense of objectivity toward any and all political issues. It is not place of Connecticut College to advocate one political view over another, or align itself as an academic institution with any particular political persuasion.”
However, Cohen is not quick to dimiss the legitimacy of the Occupy Wall Street movement, and believes that while Conn shouldn’t outright support the movement, it does need to be recognized. “It is still the responsibility of the administration to recognize and protect all political beliefs of the student population. As an establishment that prides itself on the production of free thinkers, any decision not to acknowledge Occupy Wall Street as a legitimate movement and ensure that members have the capacity to peaceably assemble and demonstrate would be wrought with inconsistency, and to a greater extent, didactic hypocrisy.”
Beyond the Connecticut College campus, occupiers around the United States and across the globe have suffered as a result of their political opinions. In Oakland, California, police officers used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse unarmed protesters who had built a camp in a downtown plaza. Among those critically injured in Oakland was a Marine veteran named Scott Olsen, who has become iconic in the region for his activism.
And in China, the government has banned the word “Occupy” as a search term on the Internet, fearing that its citizens will adopt the movement, which has quickly spread around the world through the use of social media.
A patriot, as defined by the New Oxford American Dictionary, is “a person who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors.” Definition number two is “an automated surface-to-air missile designed for preemptive strikes.”
Such definitions explain why the notion of patriotism is anathema to many progressives. The jingoistic version of patriotism has, of course, been deployed throughout American history to galvanize Americans around war, traditional cultural values and the oppression of minorities.
So as soon as Occupy Wall Street captured the attention of the world, it is no surprise that the right leaped to label it anti-American. Talk to young protestors down at Zuccotti Park, however, and you’ll find a crop of zealous patriots born from the movement itself.
“I think the very act of being down here is an act of patriotism in itself,” says Lindsay, a 24-year-old who works at a non-profit. “It’s being committed to what this country looks like.” She says she’s been disappointed by activist communities in the past, but that the inclusive structure of OWS has inspired in her a newfound patriotism, tied to the belief that this movement really can “move the country forward.”
Megan Hafner, 23, graduated in June and moved to New York in search of meaningful work. She says she didn’t used to feel so proud of her country. “Growing up in the Bush years, it was a very stifling time to be a child,” she laughs.
She’s found in this horizontal, cooperative movement the impetus to work towards becoming a better person herself as she works to better her country. It’s about “holding the community I’m living with accountable....Being committed to a place, I want to fight for it to become better just as I want to become better myself.”
For Hafner, this feeling of pride in her community is new, too. “I think this is the first time I’m really feeling jazzed about connecting with Americans,” she says.
Occupier Robert James Carlson had three jobs in Minnesota before dropping them to come see what OWS was all about. He has been sleeping in Zuccotti for nearly a month and a half, and has carved out a job for himself doing “outreach” work. He walks around the city with a sign that reads “I could lose my job for having a voice,” in order to spur debate in the wider community.
Carlson says the message and potential of this movement have completely altered his feelings about his country. “This is the proudest I’ve ever been of America in the 25 years of my life,” he says.
An older Occupy supporter who spoke to The Nation noted that there is a difference between the patriotism of these young occupiers and that of the last significant left social movement. William Hyde, an actor, writer and carpenter who “make[s] money here and there,” was part of the anti-Vietnam era and moved here from California to participate in this generation’s movement. What differentiates OWS, he says, is that its form of patriotism is more inclusive. “The movement in the 60s alienated working class America, and it was dead by the early 70s. This movement does everything it can possibly do to embrace the working class.”
Regardless, some are still uncomfortable with the word “patriotism.” Mike Griffiths is a 21-year-old college student from Wisconsin who took the semester off to come occupy. He’s been camping out since the beginning and works translating the OWS Journal into Spanish. “I don’t know what I think about patriotism,” he says, with skeptical look. “I think we should work on redefining that.” He’d rather focus on solidarity with the international movement, not identifying with a particular group of people. “How about us being patriotic to the human race?” he suggests.
Whether occupiers feel they are being patriotic dissidents or patriotic towards the human race, they are undertaking a thorough reappropriation and redefinition of the term. In essence, they are occupying the very concept of patriotism itself.
Hafner believes the very “antithesis of patriotism” is failing to question what ‘patriotism’ itself means. She rejects “throwing around” easy sound bites, calling them “stamps and signals and indicators that you don’t have to try to understand or break down.” Hyde agrees. He says those who are truly anti-American are the one percent in government and business who are radically redistributing wealth upwards, away from the needs of the 99 percent. “You have a government that wraps itself in the flag that really acts un-American...This movement is trying to reclaim its government, reclaim its flag.”
Gabriel Johnson, a 19-year-old student at Rutgers Newark, was among the crowd at the General Assembly last Friday. He was grinning and waving an American flag. Johnson says he came down to the park on September 17th, the official start date of OWS, and has been toting the red, white and blue around ever since. He says he’s bought about fifteen flags from the vendor at Zuccotti. “I’ve been [his] one-man stimulus program,” he says.