Students and Athens Community Members Occupy OhioU
Students and community members alike gathered at the top of Morton hill Sunday, Oct. 16, to rally their support for the Occupy Wall Street movement and start a movement of their own: Occupy OhioU.
Camped out on the grassy area next to the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, people of all ages came toting tents, blankets, signs and even poodles, to join in the movement that has spread to hundreds of places across the United States. The occupation is scheduled to last one week.
The Occupy OhioU movement has no one spokesperson, but claim “the demand is simply that we are taking back our country,” said Dr. Judith Grant, professor and director of Women’s and Gender studies at OU.
“We are asserting that we own the country,” said Grant. “[We are] asserting that Wall Street does not own America.”
“[I am] taking a social movements class, so we’ve been talking a lot about the Occupy Wall Street movement,” said occupier Brianna Stewart. “I think because of the disparity that goes on in the United States is ridiculous, there’s no excuse for the fact that so many people have to live in poverty and the fact that we’ve been giving big businesses control over the government is unacceptable.”
“Something needs to change,” Stewart said.
“This is one of the first sincere movements I’ve seen on this campus to take back our voice, that has been lost, in politics,” said supporter and occupier, Jake Hogue.
“The foundations of our democracy have been dismantled by corporate greed and social and economic injustices,” said Hogue. “I think that this is a solidarity stance to go against that.”
Supporters and occupiers gathered in a circle, inviting all people to speak up about whatever issue they felt needed voice, reiterating that each individual has a place in the conversation.
“We want to make it known that no one individual speaks for all of us,” said Tyler Barton, a senior at the forefront of organizing the event.
As supporters in the circle spoke up about issues they’d like to see addressed, Barton wrote them down so onlookers could see why the movement has gathered. Members of the movement from ages 10 to 85 spoke up.
Issues included: Chase Bank – a corporate bank owned by JP Morgan – out of Athens, fair housing for all, “fracking,” university investments in Wall Street, forgiveness of student loan debt, clean water, universal healthcare, food waste, poverty, tuition pricing and establishing voting rights for the two students appointed to the Board of Trustees.
Amidst the occupiers was an 85-year-old man dressed as Uncle Sam, sporting a sign that read: “I am Sam, the imperial 800 foreign military based globalization man, with me profligate ‘con-sump-shun’ global warming plan.” There was also a young girl, with a sign that read: “When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty!”
Members also suggested assembling a task force to enforce social norms and “radical hospitality” amongst the occupation – meaning, everyone is welcome in the space, but violence, drug use and alcohol will not be welcome.
The occupation will also be hosting “Free Skool” events throughout the week. Speakers, including both students and professors, will be giving presentations on various different issues involved in social movements, such as education, gender, capitalism and neoliberalism.
“Free Skool is an old, anarchist idea, saying that what you really need for a school are students and teachers and anyone can teach and anyone can learn,” said Grant.
A schedule of these events can be found on the #OccupyOhioU Facebook page, as well as the Free Skool event page.
Along with the Free Skool events, the New Organizing Institute, a group dedicated to encouraging the practice of “engagement organizing,” will be flying a representative from Washington D.C. to Athens to help train members on Wednesday. Comedian Lee Camp is also scheduled to make an appearance during his stay in Athens, after giving the Inaugural Mel Helitizer Memorial Humor Writing lecture Monday.
“We are relearning democratic and social practices of how to actually govern ourselves at a direct and immediate level,” said Grant.
All are encouraged to join or come and ask questions about the movements.