“Occupy” Returns to the Mill

Posted on 28 March 2012

web_Occupy Sag Harbor 3-25-12_6284

By Claire Walla

If you drove past the windmill in Sag Harbor last Sunday, you may have noticed a sign.

“F*** Obama, Occupy.” (Missing letters included.)

It produced at least one angry call to the Sag Harbor Village Police station, which reported the incident as an “offensive sign.” Whether you like it or not — and whether or not you agree with this sentiment — they’re back.

After a few-month hiatus, the group of activists associated with the national Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement, known locally as Occupy East End (OEE), took to the Sag Harbor windmill last Sunday, March 25 to reinstate efforts to, well, occupy the Hamptons.

The group had been meeting in the Lutheran Church in Bridgehampton for much of the winter, due to the seasonal chill. But now they’re back here in Sag Harbor, where their efforts to gather support are much more visible.

This reemergence, which last week drew a crowd of about 10, follows in the wake of major Occupy rumblings in New York City, where OWS protestors effectively created another protest encampment in Union Square at 14th Street.

OEE members Shannone Ball and Matt Laspia were there last Friday night when police officers shut down Union Square from the hours of 1 to 6 a.m. While the two OEE members condemned the actions of the NYC police officers, who, dressed in riot gear, barricaded people out of the park, Ball and Laspia said the fight to change the U.S. banking system and instill more equality was still going strong.

And they want the East End to follow suit.

Ball, who largely facilitated last Sunday’s meeting, spoke on behalf of the Direct Action Working Group, of which she is a part.

“I’m trying to put together a map of the 1 percent, where they live, so we can protest them,” Ball said. “They vacation in our resort town and they deplete our resources.”

Protesting might include standing outside these locations with picket signs. The details aren’t really clear. Ball said she’s also in the process of making a list of people who dock their boats in Sag Harbor; the people who, as Ball described them, “continue to commit crimes and not be responsible for them.”

The thrust of the Occupy movement has focused on the U.S. banking industry, which protesters in large part blame for the economic collapse of 2008 and the continually growing divide between rich and poor in this country.

“We don’t want to occupy The American Hotel, we love The American Hotel,” Ball clarified during the meeting. “But, if Lloyd Blankfein [CEO and Chairman of Goldman Sachs] is eating there, we have to be there.”

Ball further articulated the group’s intentions by saying its efforts are not aimed at creating a “lynch mob” mentality. Rather, the goal is to foster “productive direct actions.”

In addition to picketing, this could include protest marches.

Southampton resident Bob Shainwald supported that notion when he explained he had attended a march in Port Jefferson the previous Saturday, which had attracted a crowd of about 80 people, “mainly my age, all white,” he added.

It was a silent march through the downtown section of the waterfront town, held primarily to mark the anniversary of the war in Iraq.

While last Sunday’s OEE meeting was not exactly well attended — according to group organizer Larry Darcey there are upwards of 25 active members the group — the meeting still followed procedures outlined by OWS.

The group went through committee reports, group members used hand signals to support comments or interrupt words that didn’t follow protocol, and the meeting ended with a portion called “soapbox,” during which all members were invited to share opinions.

Last week the group didn’t have much to report; members primarily focused on the name shifting from “Occupy the Hamptons” to “Occupy the East End,” a change that was voted in the week prior. The group will exist under both headings until April 18, when the name change will be official.

OEE member Michael Clarjen-Arconada, part of the East End Clean Water Working Group, said “We want to focus on clean water to find permanent solutions to the problem of water pollution.”

Because water and food and education, he concluded, should be “free for all!”

Picking up where Clarjen-Arconada left off, Matt Laspia — who is also part of a grassroots organization called Produce in the Projects — said that every Sunday he would make an effort to bring fresh vegetables to the meetings. They would be free to all in attendance. (His pick-up truck, parked at the curb beside the windmill, displayed a sign that read: “Free Kale.”)

Produce in the Projects is an organization that teams up with homeowners across Long Island and Queens to dig-up lawns and replant a variety of vegetables.

“They take half and we take half,” Laspia said.

All 10 members standing around Laspia raised their arms and wiggled their fingers to show their support.

The group will be meeting next Sunday, April 1 at 2 p.m. at the windmill.

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7 Responses to ““Occupy” Returns to the Mill”

  1. Local Business owner says:

    Let’s make Sag Harbor’s marinas and restaurants completely uninviting to those who spend money and fuel our local economy. That’s a real bright idea! While it’s nice that Ms. Ball “loves the American Hotel”, clearly she doesn’t run a local business nor does she understand the economy of our village. I would also like to hear her explain how the wealthy second-home-owners who pay 90% of our local taxes, fund our schools, and support our charities are supposedly “depleting our resources.” Growing up on in Bridgehampton in the 1960s, we had a much bigger water quality problem when we were primarily a farming economy.

  2. LI Resident says:

    Although I can feel your pain should local businesses suffer at the hand of protesters, I think it is important to think bigger picture. When your business accepts money which has been earned in an unethical way, your business becomes an enabler of that unethical behavior. Would you gladly welcome known mobsters or murderers into your establishment and accept their money? Perhaps you would, but many of us would think you were acting selfishly and unethically. Some of the wealthy elites who frequent Sag Harbor definitely earned their wealth in horrible, unethical ways… not all, but some. It is important to respect the potesters right to bring these people into the public eye and help bring them to justice…. ethical justice.

  3. Sag Harbor Native says:

    I support the local Occupy Movement. I think we should all think about how the local economy has been ravaged by the 1% and how we now have to cater to these tax dodging billionaires. There is a 27% poverty rate in “The Hamptons” in case you didn’t know. The local people are struggling and business dies when the Wall St. fat cats take off after the season. Why? Ask yourself that. I support freedom of speech even if its in a resort town. Id like to add this. When the Occupation was in Liberty Park in NYC local business increased. More people support the Occupy Movement then you realize. As far as your farm comment. Seriously? yeah its so much better that farmers have been driven out to make room for million dollar summer homes. Good Move? I think not. If you want to place blame on someone for poor water quality in the 60′s farming days might I suggest you turn off your TV and google Monsanto? Local fisherman and farmers were once the staple in our communities now they struggle to pay their mortgages. Occupy is not fighting the rich. Be rich that’s fine. But when it comes to the 1% and you know who you are, know this, we are here and we are here to stay!

  4. Matt says:

    The rich come in, property values go up, land lords kick out tenants to make room for more affluent tenants because they know they can get more, stores in town can’t keep up with higher rent costs, mom and pop shops are bought out and replaced with upscale bars and clothing stores. Government zoning created the weird situation in Wainscott where you’ll see quarter-acres of farmland scattered everywhere. The school district continues to spend tons of money on fluff and bullshit at taxpayers expense.

    But most importantly, the east end has become financially dependent on tourists, daytrippers, and yes, the very very rich. We have the best farmland and access to ocean on three sides. We have tons of tractors and machines and hammers and tools. Instead of using them to build mansions, maybe we could use our vocations and skills to create a semi-self-sufficient local economy.

    What if we all refused to pay taxes, and put the percentage we would have paid towards farmland development and education and communities centers? What if we used it to collect garbage and fix roads EFFICIENTLY and with little waste. What if residents and taxpayers could directly participate in those types of decisions?

    That’s why I like Occupy the East End. It provides a place for people to collectively brainstorm and carry out projects and actions that provide alternatives to the status quo, which I am not a fan of.

  5. frederick Muhlbauer says:

    All Americans need to wake up to whats going on in our country before it is too late and the clock is ticking my friends more quickly everyday

  6. Darren Gengarelly SR. says:

    Hey Matt , how about sharing some of those “brain storms”that come from the Johnny come lately few who came out of the woodwork last week. Where were they all winter. Heck it wasnt even cold.
    They dont even know where to protest. It was the president and his”court” who handed out your money to the evil 1 percent. DUH!!! There just whiners whining.
    Your farmland is going to pay for alot?!.
    How do you pay for community centers and grand education with only farming? I dont know how long you have been hear but i was raised here and am quite thankful that someone was smart enough back in the 60s to grow the tourist trade. Back when farming was thankless and underpaid. Perhaps we should use migrant workers so there may be some money left for your “grand illusion”.
    I am looking forward to being corrected by your clarification of how your plan will work. Good luck.

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