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.