This article was originally published in NYU’s Washington Square News.
As the Occupy Wall Street protests swelled in the East Village this weekend, so did the student population joining the now international movement.
This weekend, students joined an eclectic mix of young and old protestors when a 3,000-strong rally congregated in Washington Square Park along with 500 others in Tompkins Square Park. The group marched and merged with an estimated 30,000 people in Times Square. Police forces and demonstrators clashed in various locations across the city, and at one point protesters knocked down a police horse in Times Square. According to East Village activist John Penley, protesters in Tompkins Square Park super-glued the locks on the park gates and climbed limousines.
"That’s the first time I’ve seen that kind of action on Avenue A in 15 years," Penley said. New York Police Department Commissioner Paul Browne said 92 demonstrators were arrested by early Sunday morning. Fourteen of those arrested were in violation of the Washington Square Park curfew.
As police lined the streets of Washington Square East and South, chanting slogans like, "We are unstoppable, another world is possible." A protestor wearing an NYU shirt waved a sign that read, "We’re young, but that means we have the most to lose." According to Columbia University sociology and journalism professor Todd Gitlin, though the movement has seen disillusioned citizens of all ages come together, the main force behind the movement has been the critical mass of "free-floating energy" from the younger generation.
"There is a fear that the possibility of an ordinary life is slipping off the edge," Gitlin said, citing increasing student debts and unemployment as being the fuel behind the college students’ frustrations.
In an effort to capture the burgeoning student momentum, occupywallst.org recently began posting a schedule of weekly all-student assemblies in the city. Daniel DiMaggio, a first-year graduate student in CAS, said he was enthused about the strong student involvement in the movement since early October.
"I think that students have an important role to play in the Occupy Wall Street Movement, bringing their energy and enthusiasm with them to these protests," he said. "I hope this generation of students can find a sense of moral outrage as sharp as that which drove student activists during the Civil Rights and Vietnam anti-war movements of the ’60s."
Zoltan Gluck, a Ph.D. student studying anthropology at CUNY Graduate Center, said he hopes to grow student participation in OWS. "The main idea here is the student assembly," he said. "We are trying to encourage people to engage and organize in their own campuses." Samuel Boujnah, a Tisch junior, attended both the Washington Square Park and Times Square rallies.
"Just by going to NYU, you’re supposed to be better off," he said. "But to me we’re not better off than the average American, we can still relate."
Gitlin said a transformation of the political system will rest on the shoulders of the collective body. "The question of major change is whether the movement can endure," Gitlin said. "If not, it will have produced some memorable experiences and will dissolve into the mists of time."