Students from colleges and high schools around the country gathered Thursday for protests and rallies called the National Day of Action for Education.
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Two groups associated with the Occupy movement –- Occupy Colleges and Occupy Education -– organized the event, along with a group called the New York Student Aid Alliance.
Natalia Abrams, an organizer with Occupy Colleges, said that more than 70 schools pledged through the Occupy Colleges website to send at least 100 students each to the rallies, with some schools pledging hundreds more. She estimated turnout to be in the "mid to high thousands."
The event is the second in two days that has drawn attention to what might be described as a second wave of the Occupy movement.
Call it Occupy 2.0. After evictions ended the movement's camping phase a few months ago, the occupation went into hibernation. Activists regrouped and got more organized, focusing on specific issues. Wednesday's march targeted the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization that promotes policies intended to benefit corporations. Thursday's took aim at the high cost of education.
Compared with the novel spectacle of tent cities that rallied protesters and the media five months ago, this week's events haven't received much attention. Without people camping in public places, the movement isn't quite as conducive to photo ops and headlines. But if it has come to resemble a more traditional protest movement, many Occupy activists say that's a good thing.
Daniel Jones, a sophomore at New York University with years of experience in activism, said that when the movement started he was "really, really critical."
"There was a real lack of strategy and analysis and in a lot of ways the occupations were alienating huge sections of the working class," he said.
He got involved after the camps were evicted and helped organize today's protests at NYU, crediting his conversion to the fact that elements of the movement have grown more focused and strategic in recent months, partly by reaching out to neighborhood-based organizing groups. For example, in an effort to get NYU to divest its pension fund from J.P. Morgan Chase, which had more money in foreclosed homes as of 2010 than any other U.S. bank, Occupy activists on the NYU campus have been working to build relationships with off-campus organizing groups not otherwise tied to the Occupy movement.
These days, said Jones, the movement isn't just about "going out there and saying inequality is bad. Now we're organizing, which means thinking about, well, where does that inequality come from? What is it we're up against? What are the sources of their power? How do we start addressing it? Those weren't conversations that were happening a month ago."
Much of that organizing is taking place on the phone. A group called InterOccupy has set up a website where people from Occupy nodes around the country can connect to each other through something called Maestro, an online program that allows hundreds of people to talk on the phone at the same time. (An all-important mute feature helps prevent the calls from descending into cacophony.)
"There are all of these conference calls going on constantly," said Todd Gitlin, a former president of Students for a Democratic Society and a scholar of social movements at Columbia University whose book about the Occupy movement, "Occupy Nation," is due in April.
"So much of this is going on, I don't know how to judge which of those discussions are fruitful or not," he said. "But they're efforts to think creatively and collectively and that's important."
Both Thursday's and Wednesday's protests were planned and coordinated through the InterOccupy phone system. At NYU today, students marched outside of five locations chosen because they seemed to exemplify what Jones described as "ways that NYU behaves like a corporation." They included a campus-based franchise of Chick-fil-A, a company that has attracted criticism for donating money to groups that oppose gay marriage, among them Focus On The Family and the Family Research Council.
At the University of North Carolina, students and faculty put on skits and took part in "teach-ins." And at the University of Rhode Island, protestors set up tiny fabric tents around the campus, making it look as though the school had been occupied by Lilliputians.
Occupy Colleges started in early October with a student walkout that attracted more than 8,000 participants around the country, according to the organizers. After a pepper-spraying incident at University of California, Davis made headlines in November, the group coordinated solidarity protests at 70 schools around the country. It also encouraged students to set up Occupy camps on their campuses, and many heeded the call. But by early January, most of the tents were down.
Now the campus groups "function more as clubs, where they meet a couple times a week and join us for their conference calls," said Abrams, the Occupy Colleges organizer. Abrams considers herself a "facilitator," not a leader, evoking the consensus-based, horizontal structure that has been an integral part of the Occupy movement since the beginning. Students involved with Occupy Colleges make all their decisions by consensus, she said, just as the protesters in Zuccotti Park did in the fall.
Asked to explain the motives for today's events, Abrams rattled off a list of gloomy statistics. The average student debt is $24,000, under-employment among college graduates is 24 percent, and the cost of a college education has gone up by 66 percent in the last 20 years. (And yes, that last figure has been adjusted for inflation.)
People often ask how colleges can bring down those costs, said Abrams. "Administrators and college presidents make a lot of money," she noted.
Abrams, who is 32, said the high cost of education kept her from enrolling in a full-time college until she was 28. She graduated from UCLA in 2009, and now works part time selling wallpaper at her husband's family business. "Not everybody wakes up and says I want to be a wallpaper salesman," she said, "but a job is a job and in this economy I was grateful to have one."
Via HuffPost Miami:
When an Occupy Miami member offered evicted protestors vacant apartments in a building he owns in Downtown Miami's Overtown neighborhood, it seemed like the perfect solution: the 'Peace City' space would provide headquarters for the movement and shelter a small faction of the group's most vulnerable members. But it hasn't gone well. Other tenants say the building has become a cesspool of drug use and violence while non-resident Occupy Miami members are trying to distance themselves from the 'radicals' -- all while the two factions are wrestling for control over Occupy Miami's social media sites and future plans.
The feud between the Overtown occupiers and more mainstream members has only gotten worse. The two factions are now battling for control of Occupy Miami's social media sites. The movement's main Twitter account recently announced it had been "hijacked by a small, non-consensus group of radical members." The Occupy Miami Facebook page was also temporarily hacked by someone inside Peace City. Meanwhile, the Overtown occupation is slowly driving away more moderate members.
"This is a black eye on the Occupy movement," says Shannon Reaze, an Overtown community organizer and Occupy Miami supporter who is now helping tenants move out of Paz's building. "The violence and drugs going on here are way outside of what I thought Occupy stood for. This place is destabilized."
...The supposedly hard-core activists here spend their days drinking and getting high. And as Peace City devolves into lawlessness, the most committed occupiers are leaving. Local landowners and politicians want the place shut down, while cops are suspicious. Yet as long as Paz wants the protesters around, nothing short of a demolition order can keep them out.
Via HuffPost DC:
WASHINGTON -- Occupy DC has a new lawsuit involving tents on its hands. But it doesn't involve temporary structures in McPherson Square.
Two protesters arrested during a February action outside Merrill Lynch's offices on 15th Street NW near McPherson Square have filed suit against the Metropolitan Police Department, Legal Times reports. (Read the complaint here.)
The plaintiffs, Samuel Dukore and Kelly Canavan, were part of a "targeted occupation" of Merrill Lynch on Feb. 13 where protesters were raising awareness about Merrill Lynch's reportedly close ties with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). Issa, for his part, claims that the reports of these close ties are "wildly inaccurate."
Full story here.
OWS reports via its website:
After the brutal attack on the attempted re-occupation of Liberty Square by NYPD on the 6-month anniversary of #OWS, a number of Occupiers have relocated their base of occupation to Union Square in midtown Manhattan, a point of convergence for several #OWS protests over the past 6 months.
According to reports on the ground, several dozen people slept in the park after the illegal and violent raid on Liberty Square. Over 70 people remain, now on Day 3. Although tents and tables are still banned, Occupiers have brought blankets and sleeping gear. Many are calling it ¨the new Occupation.¨ In addition to holding General Assemblies, Union Square Occupiers are providing vital jail support for those arrested on #M17 as they are released from NYPD custody. So far, the NYPD has made no attempt to remove Occupiers or prevent them from sleeping in the park.
Occupy Long Beach is defending the mother's home. For more information, click here.
Cecily McMillan, an Occupy Wall Street activist once profiled in Rolling Stone, suffered a seizure Saturday night during protest action near Zuccotti Park. Many on-scene reported Ms. McMillan had trouble breathing after she was tackled and handcuffed by law enforcement.
A video uploaded to Youtube late Saturday night purports to show the attack. Two women can be heard commenting, “There’s Cecily,” then there is confusion as the police clearly perform a violent take-down on someone in the crowd.
According to Jeff Sharlet’s November, 2011 article about the Occupy Movement, this may be Ms. McMillan’s second violent encounter with police.
To read the full story, go here.
Cops caught on video about 10 seconds in taking down the woman who had the apparent seizure:
Watch video from inside Zuccotti Park as police moved in late last night:
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The paper reports from last night's chaos at Zuccotti Park:
At one point, a woman who appeared to be suffering from seizures flopped on the ground in handcuffs as bystanders shouted for the police to remove the cuffs and provide medical attention. For several minutes the woman lay on the ground as onlookers made increasingly agonized demands until an ambulance arrived and the woman was placed inside.
By 12:20 a.m., a line of officers pushed against some of the remaining protesters, forcing them south on Broadway, at times swinging batons and shoving people to the ground.
Kobi Skolnick, 30, said that officers pushed him in several directions and that as he tried to walk away, he was struck from behind in the neck. “One of the police ran and hit me with a baton,” he said.
To read the full story, go here.
|@ Greg_Palast : Our photographer ZD Roberts beaten @OWS Zucotti Park by cops. Thrown to ground, hair grabbd, hit with clubs while yelling, I'M PRESS PRESS!|
|@ macfathom : Doubling east on Barclay, and now the ragged front of the march is at City Hall. #OWS|
|@ LuddoftheFuture : girl in the street having a seizure and the cops have her in handcuffs. can this get any worse (live at http://t.co/4pLyy3gP)|
Activists cry out for paramedics. The woman is limp on the ground. "Come on you violent bastards where's the paramedics?"
|@ jeffrae : March is heading north up broadway #ows #occupywallstreet|
|@ macfathom : Dozens of arrests, many cuffed and sitting on broadway waiting for their ride to jail. #OWS|
|@ RDevro : Police are barricading the park. It's cleared. I witnessed countless violent arrests. No way to estimate numbers.|
Cops pulling apart human chains. There are shouts for mic checks. Now, chants start forming. "The NYPD are sweeping through," says Tim on the live stream.
|@ ANIMALNewYork : NYPD just made an announcement that Brookfield has to "clean the park" and Liberty Plaza is officially "closed."|
|@ OccupyWallStNYC : Bagpipers just started marching into the park bringing the party mood with them, NYPD arrested one of them, and things got real heated. #OWS|
|@ JackieHRye : NYPD just "destroyed" the tent in Zuccotti Park, Occupiers call for its re-building. Marching band also going through the park. #OWS|
|@ RDevro : The tent in the middle of the park continues to fill with people planning to stay the night. Lots of energy here.|
Activists ask for more room as the tent is growing, expanding.
"It looks like a floating tent." -- as Tim on his live stream.
|@ OccupyWallStNYC : .@justawall is leading us in a song! "Hit the road, banks! And don't ya come back no more no more no more no more!" #OWS|
Activists have assembled make-shift, cardboard sleeping areas inside Zuccotti Park. The cardboard is joined by a large green tarp.