Last weekend, five Middlebury students went to New York City to check out the Occupy Wall Street movement that has taken over Zuccotti Park in the Financial District since September 17th. Their experience inspired them to bring the movement to Middlebury (where activism, besides environmental, has been hardly existent of late) in order to promote awareness of the movement and to encourage Middlebury to confront issues that the movement has formed around, like corporate greed, the influence of Wall Street bankers on Washington, and social inequality caused by capitalism.
So tomorrow, with 90 other schools around the country coordinated by Occupy Colleges, Middlebury students will participate in a Student Solidarity March at 4:30PM outside the Davis Family Library. The march will end at the Gamphitheater (or Hillcrest depending on weather), where Danilo and Antonio, two Mexican migrant farm workers and activists, will talk about their experience resisting deportation (and touch on other themes connected directly and indirectly to the Occupy Wall Street movement).
The Occupy Wall Street movement started as a leaderless group of activists who decided to occupy a space in New York’s Financial District in order to reclaim it from the “1% of the population who have 99% of the money.” They set up a camp there where thousands are now coming during the day to protest and hundreds are sleeping every night.
Five Middlebury students went down for a day last weekend to participate in the protests and sleep in the camp. Kristina Johannson ’14, one of the group of Middlebury students who went down, described the scene as a functioning community complete with food, clothing, beds, medical care, a library, even a clean-up crew for everybody there. Hanna Mahon ‘13.5, who slept on a wall dividing the park from the sidewalk because the camp was so crowded, said of the movement, “I saw what a democracy could look like.”
During the day, the camp holds a General Assembly in the middle of the park where the gathering of people makes decisions for the movement using a general consensus. Sine the movement has no leader, every voice is equal and if there is no consensus, the proposal is revised. People agree and disagree using hand signals and since megaphones have been banned, the group uses a “human microphone” where the front of the crowed yells what is said to the people behind them, who repeats it to the people behind them. Countering arguments about the lack of any uniform goal in the camp, Johannson said, “The beautiful thing is how horizontal and organic it is. The goal of the movement is not being made for the people, the people are making the goals.” She said in the day they spent there, they encountered an amazing diversity of people, and many surprising supporters including CEO’s and policemen, each of whom had their own ideas of what the movement was.
It will be interesting to see how the nearly four-week-old movement matures and develops. Many in the media have noted that this is one of the first major movements in the social-networking age, so its very hard to predict its future. To find out more about the movement, there will be an Occupy Wall Street panel on Friday (10/14) at 12:15PM in the RAJ Conference room with Political Science Professor Stanger, Sociology Professor McCullum and Economics Professor Matthews.
For more information about getting involved with Occupy Middlebury, or social justice activism in general, email the Social Justice Coalition at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Readers, what do you think about the Occupy Wall Street movement? Its lack of leaders and goals? Its expansion across the country? Do you think it is relevant to the Middlebury community? How so? What do you think about the fact there has been so little activism at Middlebury recently? What does that say about our community?