By Claire Walla
The 99 Percent Spring is a nation-wide movement aimed at motivating citizens to engage in non-violent, direct action to inspire change. Sounds like Occupy, right? Not quite.
“The 99 Percent Spring is the biggest spectrum coalition of community-based movements ever formed in the history of the United States,” pronounced Sag Harbor resident Michael Clarjen-Arconada.
In fact, he will be facilitating the very first 99 Percent Spring event here in Sag Harbor this Sunday, April 15 at the Sag Harbor Windmill. In conjunction with other “Spring” movements in other parts of the country, the Sag Harbor contingent will train attendees in non-violent, direct action methods.
With the advent of social media and the ease with which people can now connect across geographic divides, Clarjen-Arconada continued to explain that the “99 Spring” movement now encompasses organizations in most major cities from every single U.S. state.
Again, this is not the Occupy movement, he clarified. It’s bigger than that. The 99 Percent Spring is a national coalition made up of several grassroots organizations. This includes Occupy, but also extends to over 100 other groups. According to information on the coalition’s website, pledges of support come from national unions like the United Auto Workers and the United Federation of Teachers, as well as grassroots organizations and NGOs.
Clarien-Arconada, who has been participating in grassroots organizing for the past year, is facilitator of the East End working group. He, along with about a dozen others training in non-violent, direct action techniques, will facilitate the event on Sunday.
“We will go into an in-depth study of the history of non-violent methods,” he explained. This discussion might include figures synonymous with non-violent protest actions, like Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr., but Clarien-Arconada said other movements, like women’s suffrage at the turn of the century and the unionization of auto workers in Flint, Michigan in the 1930s.
“The training is about thinking globally, but acting locally,” he said.
Clarien-Arconada explained that the momentum for change, which is now manifesting itself as the 99 Percent Spring, was ignited in the public consciousness about a year ago with the Arab Spring, during which Egyptian citizens banned together in Cairo (primarily using social networking tools) and successfully overthrew the Mubarak regime.
That set off a firestorm of protests, including movements in other Middle Eastern countries and Europe, most notably Spain, which ultimately set the precedent for the Occupy movement here in the U.S.
More specifically, Clarien-Arconada said the group on Sunday will discuss various methods for bringing about justice, from non-violent protests in public areas to voicing discontent outside the homes of some of the “one percent-ers” who live here in the Hamptons. (Plans are currently underway for this direct action.) However, more direct action also includes becoming a vocal presence before local government.
Clarien-Arconada got involved with the national effort to bring about change last January, after having coordinated the screening of a film about the corruption in the banking industry, “Casino Jack,” at the Sag Harbor Cinema. Because of the success of the event, he was then invited to speak about grassroots organizing with over 1,000 others at a conference in DC.
“That was inspiring,” he said. “It [motivated] me to understand how a peaceful revolution could happen through the use of the Internet.”
Now, people representing all walks of life—from noble prize-winning economist Joseph Steiglitz to famed university professor Noam Chomsky—are helping to spur the movement forward.
While Clarien-Arconada said the goals are still in the process of being formed, he said what everyone is working toward is pretty simple: full transparency and accountability in the open government process.
“The idea is to create a new system,” he explained. “To plant seeds. This is the new civilization of ecological communities organized locally, from the bottom up.”