Above: Occupy protestor Bob Shainwald at the Sag Harbor windmill last Sunday, April 15.
By Claire Walla
Last Sunday, the weekly Occupy the East End (OEE) protest here at the Sag Harbor Windmill homed in on an unlikely target: like-minded activists.
“Friends don’t co-opt friends,” read one red sign propped up against the windmill’s wooden shingles.
“Trainees, you are being lied to and co-opted,” read another right beside it.
“There’s a natural divide happening,” said one Occupy activist who wished to remain anonymous. “I don’t really know that the cause is.”
In the wake of an announcement last week that the 99% Spring movement would be holding non-violent, direct action training at the windmill, those protesting government and corporate corruption now fall into two camps.
Charlie Lulay, who came to Sag Harbor all the way from Huntington wearing a t-shirt with the slogan “I can’t afford a lobbyist: Occupy,” said he believed the 99% Spring Movement is simply “a front group” for MoveOn.org, the liberal, non-profit political advocacy group.
He said Occupiers feel the movement is now riding on the tailcoats of the headway they’ve created in the push to reform current U.S. policy.
“We are not co-opting them,” clarified local 99% Spring facilitator Michael Clarjen-Arconada.
He further added that MoveOn.org , like Occupy, is merely one group that falls under the wide-reaching umbrella of the entire 99% Spring movement, a national group.
Not everyone agrees.
“Occupy started as a non-partisan organization,” said Tori Piper, a soft-spoken girl in her early 20s with a flash of bright-orange hair, which matched the ukulele she held in her lap. “Everyone comes to Occupy for different reasons, all for the betterment of society.
“It’s not that [the 99% Spring movement] is necessarily bad,” she continued. Rather, Piper and others take issue with the fact that the 99% Spring had linked-up with OEE without first garnering a group consensus.
“He [Clarjen-Arconada] made this event before any of us even knew about it,” she said.
“We’re pretty much for similar goals,” Clarjen-Arconada explained. But, he added, unlike Occupy, “we want to find a common center, and common ground” among all participants.
The goal of Sunday’s spring get-together was to focus first on training all participants in the methods used to conduct non-violent protest.
“We want a team that’s focused on generosity and kindness,” said Clarjen-Arconada. “Occupiers are using an overly aggressive approach, which drives people away.”
The kerfuffle between the two protest factions began in large part because of overlapping schedules; the 99% Spring movement had planed to meet from noon to 7 p.m. during regularly scheduled Occupy hours. According to some Occupiers, they were not asked to share that space and time, but were rather told the 99% Spring would be there at that time.
And thus, the Spring organization altered its plans. Of the estimated 100 people who were expected to show up for the training at the windmill, Clarjen-Arconada said all of them instead went to scattered locations across the East End (mostly churches and homes) where different training sessions were conducted.
Clarjen-Arconada admitted he had been integrally involved with OEE throughout the year and will continue to support the Occupy movement. However, he said his desire to inspire change falls more in line with tactics presented by the 99% Spring.
When asked whether it would be detrimental to the movement as a whole to have sparring groups both working toward the same goal here on the East End, Occupier Bob Shainwald said that, “yes,” it probably would.
“But,” he added, “Occupy will still be here!”
As far as Sag Harbor resident Bernard Corrigan is concerned, the whole situation will eventually shake itself into some sort of order.
Just before partaking in a non-violent, direct action session with 99% Spring in Bridgehampton last Sunday, he said, “Every organization has its chaos, then community.”