Stickin' it to the man since 1927.
Occupy Clark stays grounded and keeps growing
by Ashley Klann
The Occupy Movement has spread from the big banks on Wall Street to cities across the globe, and while most
of the action is still in larger regions, a group of Clark students thinks it’s just as important to raise awareness in a smaller, local areas, including our campus.
“This is real grassroots,” said Martin Leggett, who has been camping out in the AC since last Thursday. “We’re not talking about corporately or individually funded movements. We each heard about it on the news. We have a passion for the movement, and we’re behind it. We’ve found each other. It brings itself together.”
Occupy Clark has been steadily growing over the past few weeks and has been gaining support from students, faculty, and community members to strengthen Clark’s tie with this wide-reaching protest.
Sleeping bags and informative signs lie in a space near the book return.
Tired eyes glance through assigned readings, while others try to sleep under the fluorescent lighting.
Although this space might not be the most comfortable area to sleep, members of Occupy Clark will take to the Green soon. Harsh lighting won’t be an issue, but other concerns may arise.
“It’s where I’ve been when I’m not at work or class,” Leggett said. “There’s a much larger group that occupies for a time. There are about 25-30 people who come and go, and about 10 that stay here throughout the day.”
According to one student who wished to remain anonymous, Admissions asked those giving campus tours to use their own judgment when taking groups through the AC.
They are worried that Occupy Clark’s presence may be too “distracting,” suggesting tours should perhaps take a detour. With a mentality like that, it’s hard to imagine how prospective students would be exposed to the values that Clark promotes – challenging convention to change the world.
While one would expect students at a school like Clark to be well aware of the issues at hand, the group says they’ve met with many who were unsure about their motives.
“The most common question we’ve gotten from students has been ‘What is your goal?’” said Bill Kutz, another member of Occupy Clark.
“It’s a hard question to answer. We don’t have a goal; we have complaints, and they’re not about just one issue,” Leggett added.
“Of the 60 or so people I’ve talked to over the past three days, only a small handful know most of the issue, and they’ve come wanting to know more. It’s really great,” said Leggett.
This is just one of the criticisms that the Occupy Movement has faced. The lack of one central point and the lack of a defined leadership position has lead some to consider it unorganized, but members say their community is thriving, functional, and gives students the option to voice their opinions and talk about important issues.
“We’ve been sparking conversation,” said David N. Robinson. He joined the group after approaching them in the AC. “I had heard about [the movement] before joining Occupy Clark and had been trying to find some peaceful way of airing my grievances. I talked with people on Sunday and after that, I tried to come up with reasons not to [join them]. When I couldn’t, I knew I had to join. I decided to not be lazy, get my sleeping bag and tent and come over.” Robinson has been pleased with the sense of camaraderie in the group.
The General Assembly-style meetings that Occupy Clark holds follow the same rules as those in other areas. There is a system of call-and-response, hand gestures, and roles delegated to some members to facilitate ease and clarity of communication. With the GA style meetings, everyone who wishes to raise a point can do so, and if someone has a disagreement, it’s brought to the attention of everyone.
While this method is in theory a wonderfully democratic form of communication within a group, the wide range of topics and large crowds at larger Occupy locations has added to the overall criticism of disorganization.
“That’s a problem for a lot of cities – they’re really, really big. Here at Clark or in a smaller city, like Worcester, where you’re working with scores, it’s possible. On a larger scale, it’s more difficult,” said Leggett.
“As smaller venues pop up, you don’t need it,” said Kelly Kay. “We’re able to work within a community. We’re able to make decisions quicker.” The group hopes to see people across the country occupying by neighborhood in larger cities like New York.
The group’s next step will be moving to the Green on Thursday, October 27, 2011.
“It’s funny,” Leggett said. “Originally, the only criticism that we received was that we were occupying the inside but we’re here to raise awareness.”
Now that Occupy Clark has gotten its message out, the members are ready to get serious.
When asked if they were looking forward to the wet and cold weather ahead of them, Kutz replied with two words: “Waterproof tents.”
“It’s going to be great to be outside in the dark,” Kay added.
When the group moves to the Green, the AC will remain open for them to use the facilities. Kutz said that UP’s Chief Goulet has been especially helpful in expediting permits for the group to have a fire and outdoor toilets, if need be. While Leggett said they don’t expect to need them, the group is pleased with the help and support they have received.
“I’m not sure we’ve thought through 100% of the issues [concerning occupying the Green], but given how much we’ve grown over the past week, I’m very positive,” Kay said.
The group’s future plans include gaining connections with the surrounding area.
“We want to get to this community in any way – not necessarily in the form of an occupation, but information,” Leggett said. “We want to occupy a common space with the Worcester movement.”
Leggett added that Occupy Worcester has been consistently active, checking in and giving support to the group. While Occupy Clark has been reciprocating, there is a separate group of students living at Lake Park at their camp in a tent from Salvation Army, purchased by students.
The group’s primary initiative through all of these actions remains the same – raising awareness about important issues and providing the Clark community with an outlet, but given the lack of knowledge on campus, members of Occupy Clark are a bit critical of how the students have sustained this.
The Clark Undergraduate Student Council has yet to discuss the Occupy Clark movement at their meetings.
“It’s what Clark should be doing on a student level anyway,” said Leggett.
“If the university has strayed so much that we’re not having conversations with likeminded or not likeminded people about important issues, we need to ask ourselves what we’re doing here,” Kay added.
Regardless of these opinions, members are encouraging students to get involved in whatever fashion they choose. They want to discourage apathy by letting students know that any viewpoint or action can help, even if it’s just showing up to discuss the issues.
“It’s not about ‘Come follow our cause.’ It’s about voicing your opinion,” Leggett said. “Make your sign about what you want. There are a lot of problems.”