Activists encourage students to ‘Occupy’
Instead of attending class in a traditional classroom, more than 50 students heard lectures on the steps of Brower Commons on the College Avenue from Occupy Wall Street “occupiers” and the impact of their social revolution.
“Every significant social movement in our past redefined the political landscape,” said James Livingston, a professor of history and co-host of yesterday’s Occupy New Brunswick Teach-In. “That is what is going on in Zuccotti Park right now.”
Livingston said Occupy Wall Street, which protests the influence of money and corporations in government, is a momentous event that will foster change.
Janice Fine, assistant professor of labor studies and employment relations at the University, said the corporate influences in government are akin to baseball players bribing umpires or lawyers paying off judges.
“What do we say about a system, in which a people that we elect, are offered enormous campaign contributions for the positions they are taking on issues?” she said. “We call [them] campaign contributions, but we should call them bribes.”
Mark Bray, a member of Occupy Wall Street’s press working group, said the movement is not just to protest for a solution but an opportunity to discuss what future actions could be taken toward a new solution.
“For too long these have come pre-packaged. They’ve come from a certain formula. If you don’t like it there is no other option, there is only option A and option B,” he said. “We are trying to create a space where new ideas can flourish, a space where perhaps we can come up with something different.”
John Connelly, a member of Rutgers Student Union, which co-sponsored the event, said the University has quite a history with occupations.
“The only reason I am here today is because at Rutgers-Newark in the 1960s [students] took over buildings and refused to give them back until programs were created to help working class students afford an honest tuition,” he said.
Connelly, who is also vice president of the Rutgers University Student Assembly, said the movement is fractured, but that is not a detriment,
“Occupy Wall Street is a great movement because the people don’t have anything that unites them other than the fact that they realize something is going wrong and it needs to be set right,” he said.
Bray, a third-year PhD student in history, said the point of the movement is not necessarily to come up with solutions but to ask questions about the poverty rate and the lack of education in the country.
“These are important questions, but I don’t have the answers and I’m not sure any one person has the answers,” he said. “The point is if we don’t ask these questions, the questions won’t be asked and the answers will never become readily available.”
Livingston did provide some solutions to economic problems, including how to avoid a future crash of the economy.
“The only way out of this is not re-regulation but to socialize investments, and socialize the banks,” he said. “It’s not really a radical solution, because we the taxpayers already guarantee each others deposits, we just now have to take responsibility for it.”
Livingston said the concerns for raising taxes should not be given the weight they have in political conversation.
“The rich say that they already pay 40 percent in taxes. I don’t care — raise their taxes. They are still going to remain rich,” he said.
The real issue in the crisis would be to tax corporate profits, Livingston said.
“The personal income tax code doesn’t matter very much,” he said. “What matters is taxes on corporate profits, which have fallen precipitously since the 1960s and personal income taxes have made up the difference.”
Bray said the movement should also start to take place in New Brunswick.
“It’s important to think of this as not something happening only in New York, and it can be reproduced in cities and towns and that’s been happening throughout the country,” he said. “I’m hoping for an Occupy everywhere.”
Connelly, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said he thinks an Occupy movement in New Brunswick right now would be ill advised.
“Occupation as a tactic is not something that can be misused, it’s not something that can be done on a lark. There has to be a build up to it,” he said.
Connelly cited the occupation of President Richard L. McCormick’s office after the “Walk Into Action” protest last semester as an example.
“Last year’s occupation of Old Queens was after a solid year of educational events, of rallies, of letter deliveries, and finally students who had had enough, took over Old Queens for 36 hours,” he said. “However, as a last measure it has been effective historically and probably could be again.”