Activists work to localize global Occupy protests
Occupy New Brunswick hopes to gain traction next week, sharing ambitions with its New York sister, two months after the Occupy Wall Street movement began.
It started quietly last Wednesday at the steps of Brower Commons on the College Avenue campus, but more public protests are planned.
Banks are once again at the heart of the problem in the minds of the “occupiers,” who decided to bring the worldwide movement to New Brunswick.
“We are going to take on the banks here in New Brunswick,” said Jeannette Gabriel, an activist and University alumna. “This is about bringing Occupy Wall Street to people who want to do something in their own community and can’t get to New York every day.”
The week of rallies bears the name, “Take on the Banks,” and has a theme for each day. It is planned to start Nov. 14 at 4 p.m. at the intersection of George Street and Albany Street, Gabriel said.
“There are a lot of great activists in New Brunswick,” she said. “It’s a shame that we haven’t done something on Occupy sooner. Over and over again, we’ve heard people want to start something in their own community.”
Gabriel said the movement would be a good way of bringing together student and community activists who were already involved in local issues.
“This was initially called by community activists and we are trying to bridge that gap and all work together,” she said.
Occupy New Brunswick has not communicated its plans with the city of New Brunswick yet, Gabriel said.
“One of the themes of the Occupy Wall Street movement has been that the people don’t need permits and we are going to follow through with that,” she said. “We are going to be on the sidewalk and we are going to be utilizing public space.”
Still in the prenatal stages of the Occupy New Brunswick movement, about 20 people — most of whom are students — stood in solidarity with the Occupy Oakland strike last Wednesday, which took the stage from Occupy Wall Street for the majority of the week.
Michael Carr, one of the organizers and a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said more would come, including Wednesday meetings at 7 p.m. at the Scarlet Latte in Alexander Library on the College Avenue campus.
“We are trying to gear up and raise interest in the movement,” he said, still unsure of the details.
Carr said in addition to economic turmoil the movement will try to battle, protesters will continue a much-polarized discussion of police brutality, which has taken root in the city over the last two months.
“We are very grassroots,” Carr said. “There are a ton of people who came to organize this from different areas, and we are trying to work and build it together.”
Students who decided to join the movement early on held different views on what had to change — banks’ policies, police brutality or workers’ rights — but all agreed on the necessity of Occupy New Brunswick.
As a member of a single-parent family, School of Arts and Sciences senior Kaye Toal said student debt is a problem affecting her and her classmates.
“My mom worries about money a lot, so I’m here [at the University] basically on scholarships and grants, so I shouldn’t be in as much debt as I am,” she said.
School of Arts and Sciences senior Shayna Slininger said she would like to see President Barack Obama address the Occupy movements so protesters could make informed decisions.
She compared some of the U.S. government’s treatment of people to that of dictators whom the United States has unseated.
“We as an American population have gone into other countries for the same reasons which [we] are fighting against here and saved citizens from their governments from abusing them,” Slininger said.
Carr said he hoped New Brunswick could gather enough people to make a difference despite the low turnout on the steps of Brower Commons, which he found disappointing.
“This is more about getting the word out and getting the information out and hopefully be a bigger part of the whole movement,” he said.
The week of “Take on the Banks” rallies will begin next Monday with “We are the 99 Percent,” which will be followed by protests on foreclosure, workers’ rights and police brutality along with “We are the Future” that focuses on student debt, in the days following.