Editor’s Note: This is the fourth installment in a series covering the Occupy Wall Street movement and its effects both on and off campus.
On Guy Fawkes Day, also known as “the fifth of November,” fifteen Connecticut College students travelled to New York City to continue protesting the influence of corporate wealth in politics and economic inequality.
The day marked the 406th celebration of Guy Fawkes Day, which commemorates Fawkes’ attempt to lead a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament and bring down England’s Protestant monarchy. He was caught, imprisoned, tortured and ultimately sentenced to death by hanging. The sinister image of Fawkes’ face was first popularized by the 1980s graphic novel V For Vendetta, and the subsequent 2006 film adaptation. The international hacking collective Anonymous appropriated the image, and it has since become iconic on the streets of New York and in Zuccotti Park.
While the day was celebrated with the movement’s typical motions, including marching, general assemblies and stack lists, the commemoration of Fawkes never reached radical proportions. CC Dissent Organizer Juan Pablo Pacheco ’13 said, “The march to the Court of Justice in NYC on Saturday had the potential to organically develop into a massive act of civil disobedience. But it did not. Why? I believe it is because the people were expecting an established plan when there was none; people were too scared to act collectively in an improvised fashion.”
Pacheco compared this type of protesting to protests in his native Colombia, where resistance movements develop when just a few people take to the streets. “People could have used the momentum in an improvised, organic and collective way. The energy was there, but it was lost because of fear. Thus, as much as I respect the level of horizontal organization kept by this growing movement, it seems as if the angry masses are letting the historical opportunity of resisting and confronting pass under their noses.”
Freshman Cesar Moran attributes this fear that Pacheco describes as coming from “a corrupt society [that tells us] to hoard and defend our space, property and resources. Dare to teach the world a new reality where hospitality, generosity and compassion are the norm.”
In addition to fear, the media circus that has kept tabs on the Occupy Wall Street movements has proved disheartening to protesters attempting to express their beliefs. Carrie Rubury’12 noted, “The actual bodies of the media, people not interested in following the actions of the rest of the other marchers, had an negative effect on the peacefulness of the protest.”
As the movement has continued its momentum in New York, across the United States and around the world, a new group called CC Dissent at Connecticut College has attempted to advocate for the goals and agenda of the movement on campus.
Initially, the group co-authored a letter to Connecticut College’s Student Government Association advocating for the school’s support for the Occupy movement on campus, as many peer institutions have done.
One portion of the original letter clearly outlined the real-life impact of economic disparity, particularly on students:
“For three decades those at the very top of the economic ladder have prospered while the vast majority of our population is increasingly indebted and impoverished. The concentration of great wealth in poorly regulated banks and corporations threatens our democracy and enables the plundering of our national resources. The gap between rich and poor is greater than ever before in our nation’s history. Our wealthiest citizens are not paying their fair share. We join Occupy New London and Occupy Wall Street in demanding solutions to improve the economic and social circumstances of everyday people. This crisis and the austerity measures under consideration by the government will affect the future of our generation. Many of us, now deeply in debt, may find ourselves unemployed when we graduate. The current economic situation is such that some of us will probably carry these debts for decades to come. Where is the federal bailout for students, crushed and dispirited by debt?”
When CC Dissent brought the letter to SGA, it was met with hesitation, and many senators outright rejected the letter for myriad reasons. Some were uncertain about how their constituents would feel about a vote of support for the letter, while some maintained their own biases in rejecting the letter.
For instance, the house senator of River Ridge and Winchester, Nicholas Gollner ’14, sent an email to his constituents vilifying the movement, and warning students to “check your facts and formulate your own views; resist the urge of many a liberal college student to become swept up by a popular idea. I am open to discussion, please email me or stop by my house sometime.”
Meanwhile, CC Dissent has changed their letter significantly, and removed any mention of the Occupy movement itself. Instead, they framed their support in terms of “local and national social movements working to bring about much needed change in our society, in particular the end of structural inequalities as they exist today. We conceive of civil disobedience and the non-violent occupation of public spaces as clear examples of direct action that have historically furthered the democratic cause.”
According to one anonymous source in SGA, the new letter “is as general as something that could have been written for the Tea Party. There really is no reason why we can’t pass it.”
However, as of recent, SGA has not formally backed the letter or rejected it, particularly since the new draft is so drastically different. SGA Vice President Teddy Fisher ’12 said, “Given it’s clear that we aren’t ready to make a decision, I encourage constituents to make their voice heard and talk to their senator.” •