[Marxism] Occupy movement aims to come back in force

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Mar 1 06:50:59 MST 2012


Occupy movement aims to come back in force
Submitted by Allie Grasgreen [2] on March 1, 2012 - 3:00am

For the college Occupy movement, the past couple of months have 
been largely quiet – the attention-grabbing marches and rallies 
have fizzled, encampments have closed, and there has been no 
pepper-spraying [3] or baton-swinging [4] to speak of.

But students say quietness does not equal dormancy, and today 
they’ll be out to prove it in a national “Day of Action.”

“Students are still working, but just because they haven’t seen 
all of us out in the streets every day, they think that it’s 
over,” said Caitlin MacLaren, a New York University student and 
organizer at Occupy Education [5], a network of occupations and 
student and faculty groups that are coordinating the Day of 
Action. “People will see that it’s just kind of a winter lull, and 
people are just hibernating a little bit.”

During this down time, students on campuses spanning California to 
Florida have been discussing the “next phase” of the movement, 
which Occupy Education says will begin today. More than 100 campus 
occupations and education and labor groups have told Occupy 
Education they will take part, but, as previous events have shown 
[6], many who participate do so informally. Expected student 
turnout is in the hundreds for many colleges; on many campuses, 
rallies or teach-ins are planned.

While the winter season and break from school have allowed 
protesters time for reflection and perhaps revision to their 
approach, it has also – for the media and some students – brought 
dwindling focus and camp closures. As the student activism 
historian Angus Johnston notes on his blog [7], more than three 
dozen campus occupations have sprouted up in the last five months, 
but many have since been shut down or are on hiatus after being 
evicted. Others have survived via telecommunication or weekly 
meetings in new locations, which, while undoubtedly pleasing to 
campus officials, has made it more difficult to gather.

“The value of the encampments is having a bunch of people in the 
same place with their various struggles ... really coming and 
talking about the similarities,” said Ethan Jury, a Temple 
University senior who helped coordinate today’s events in 
Philadelphia. Jury also noted that the occupations that have been 
most active throughout the winter are in warmer climates (read: 
California). “It’s one thing to send e-mails, it’s one thing to 
have conference calls. But it’s another to be meeting each other.”

In Philadelphia today, students from Temple and the University of 
Pennsylvania will stage a walk-out and rally before converging at 
the governor’s office to hear speakers from education and 
immigrants’ rights groups.

The joint effort in Pennsylvania and across the country highlights 
a tactic that we may see more of come spring: collaboration 
between occupations. Many have realized they can accomplish more 
as a united front, in spirit if not location. (Occupy Colleges 
[8], which organized the last big day of action in October, itself 
emerged as a show of solidarity with Occupy Wall Street.)

When you sit down and talk with people about the issues college 
occupations are primarily focused on – skyrocketing tuition, 
privatization of higher education, corporate ties to universities, 
poor transparency of budgets, and, overall, education as a right 
and not a commodity – “You realize that these certain issues that 
you’re struggling from are part of this larger system, and your 
interests are tied to the interests of parents and workers and 
other community members,” Jury said. “When you participate in 
something like what we hope March 1 will be, where you’re not only 
on the streets with students but you’re on the street with other 
individuals ... you engage yourself in a larger dialogue.”

“It magnifies all of the individual struggles. It’s really 
important to point out what’s happening here in the [City 
University of New York] system or the [University of California] 
system is very related, and what’s happening with private schools 
is also connected,” MacLaren said. “It’s an across-the-board 
attack on public education and on the right to education.”

In California, numerous chapters of the state faculty association 
have thrown their support behind Occupy. So has the American 
Association of University Professors [9]. Students on campuses 
outside the Golden State, meanwhile, have said faculty members are 
supportive privately, but afraid to speak out on these issues for 
fear of professional repercussions.

Faculty and students both have something to gain from working 
together on these issues, said Maureen Loughran, a California 
Faculty Association field representative at California State 
University at San Marcos.

“Students are really taking it on themselves, but there’s a 
solidarity with faculty and students that I see as being very 
powerful. It’s almost like it’s becoming an organic two-way 
street,” she said. “The students inspire the faculty and faculty 
inspire students.”

In California, today’s events will be a precursor to March 5, when 
CSU students and faculty will bus to the Capitol in Sacramento, 
where thousands are expected to rally for better funding for 
education, jobs and services. (The March 1 Day of Action was 
actually Occupy Education California [10]’s brainchild; New York 
joined in when it got wind of the plan and other campuses signed 
on from there.)

“I think [the movement] has been there all along; I don’t think it 
ever died down. They’ve just been in planning mode rather than 
action mode,” Loughran said. “It may seem like the movement was 
quiet, but they’re certainly planning for an action that I think 
will be very loud. It may not be that they have continuous action 
going on, which is probably good. They’re thinking, they’re 

For some, today could be start of a movement rather than the 
reprising of one.

Washington, D.C. is one place where college Occupy has been 
conspicuously absent. American University student Ben Johnson 
speculates this is for two reasons. One, the regularity of 
protests in the District means it can be tough to make an impact 
with yours, and two, the dominance of private colleges in the region.

“I don’t think it’s really fair to say [the movement] fizzled out, 
because it’s never really gotten its feet,” Johnson said. “I think 
it’s been harder to motivate a lot of the schools here because a 
lot of the occupations I’ve seen happening out West have been done 
with public schools, so they’re working with a different 
demographic. That’s not to say people in private schools aren’t 
affected by the same issues; however, I think that in a private 
school, I think you’re more likely to say, ‘Yeah, I’m perfectly OK 
with my school, because I chose it.’ ”

But today, students from colleges around the region – public and 
private – will march from McPherson Square near the White House 
downtown past a Sallie Mae office, and across the National Mall to 
the Education Department, where they will rally outside as 
employees are leaving for the day. While Johnson believes today is 
important to get things rolling, what comes after will be more so, 
he said.

“I would not actually call it crucial,” he said. “This is more the 
beginning of a very long campaign against these issues.”

The timing of the Day of Action is less than coincidental, notes 
Angus Johnston, who is also an adjunct assistant history professor 
at CUNY’s Hostos Community College. “For the last three years, the 
first week of March has seen a national day of coordinated student 
action in support of accessible, democratic higher education,” 
Johnston wrote. “The 2010 day of action came as the nation’s most 
active year of student protest in decades was in full swing. 
Building on the California protests and occupations of fall 2009, 
March 4 saw more than 120 actions in 33 states, and drew a level 
of media attention that was, for its time, astonishing. A year and 
a half before Occupy Wall Street was launched, 11 months before 
the Wisconsin statehouse occupation began, March 4 was for many 
the first sign that something big and new was bubbling up from the 
Source URL: 

[2] http://www.insidehighered.com/users/allie-grasgreen
[5] http://www.occupyed.org/
[8] http://occupycolleges.org/
[9] http://www.insidehighered.com/node/32272
[10] http://occupyeducationca.org/wordpress/

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