Tag Archive | "Occupy Wall Street"

“Occupy” Returns to the Mill

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Organizers Plan to Continue Occupying the Hamptons

Tags: , ,

web protest 1

As in hundreds of towns and cities around the globe on Saturday, people disenchanted with banking and the world economy gathered on Long Wharf in Sag Harbor to protest what they say is a corrupt and broken system. In sympathy with the four-week old Occupy Wall Street movement, speaker after speaker climbed up on a bench in front of the windmill at the foot of the wharf to express their frustration at the widening gap between the very wealthy and the rest of the population.

Unlike the demonstrations in New York City, there were no arrests or ugly confrontations in Sag Harbor on Saturday. In fact much of the purpose of the gathering seemed to focus on organizational matters for what is expected to be a series of weekly demonstrations, the first several returning to Long Wharf, then branching out to other Hamptons towns.

While many in the crowd carried signs and banners with slogans such as “Wall Street: Buy Stocks, Not Politicians,” “End War, Feed the Poor,” and “The 99% are 100% Fed Up,” a facilitator named Matt — who emphasized he was not the group’s leader — explained rules for speaking, making motions and gaining consensus.

Notably, he explained the way the crowd itself was to become the public address system for each of the speakers. Matt, a veteran of the occupation at New York’s Zuccatti Park, said the system was born out of necessity when demonstrators were no longer allowed to use bull horns or megaphones to speak out over the crowd. The system they devised was for the crowd that could hear the speaker to repeat what the speaker said, so that everyone else could hear. The resulting effect was like an echo sounding out over the walk in front of the windmill.

web protest 2

“It is extraordinarily inspirational to see this where I live,” said a speaker named Ty, one of the day’s organizers. She complained that “for the past 30 years we have launched the one-percenters’ vacations in our backyards,” a reference to the one percent of the population that has the vast amount of the world’s wealth, many of whom have homes in the Hamptons. Many of those in the movement refer to themselves as the 99 Percenters.

“Our schools are overcrowded, our teachers are underpaid,” Ty declared. “I see this as a gesture I hope will become a movement.”

“They are taking away the future from our children,” said Gail, another of the day’s organizers. “I believe they will not be able to survive, I don’t believe the earth can survive as well. I want our children to live a long life with hope.”

The bench was opened to those in the crowd who wanted to speak and a man named Skip who appeared to be in his early 70s was helped up.

“This is a revolution, no question about it,” he said. “But you need to have an agenda. What is it you want to accomplish? Survey after survey shows Congress is the most dysfunctional part of our government. You need to register to vote; it’s the greatest thing you have as a citizen. Just don’t vote for the incumbents.”

“That was a great example of grandstanding,” said Matt the facilitator, apparently something that is frowned upon in the extremely democratic, consensus driven government of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

web protest 3

In some ways, Saturday’s event was more about establishing rules and setting a future course than simply a protest. The event was in fact called the first general assembly for Occupy the Hamptons. Aside from demonstrating hand signals designed to “take the temperature” or check the mood of the crowd on any given subject, Matt explained that decisions for the general assembly were made by consensus, there was no individual leader, and this was not a “top down” kind of organization. Instead suggestions were offered, altered and approved at the whim of the crowd.

“Occupy Wall Street is a leaderless movement,” he said. “At this point, I am a facilitator; if you want to be the facilitator, you can be the facilitator.”

A man named Richard K. stepped up on bench and told how he had joined the group occupying Wall Street last week.

Now retired, he said he was concerned how his family would feel about his decision.

“I have two sons and I thought they may be upset I was doing this,” he said to the crowd. “And I guess they had reason to be upset; one is a derivatives trader and the other is a Wall Street lawyer.”

As the crowd laughed he continued.

“But they were very proud of me, they have great sympathy for what we are doing,” he said. “Even among the one-percenters we protest against there are many who support us.”

Energized, the group — after a series of consensus taking — decided to return to Long Wharf next week.

“Can we meet next Sunday, so that people who work on Saturday can join us,” asked one woman.

“Anybody not feeling it,” asked Matt.

No one was not feeling it. So the consensus decided to continue again on Sunday. It is expected they will be at the windmill “around three o’clock” but specifics will be available on the group’s website, occupythehamptons.org.

“I look forward to having our own march, down Route 114 or on Route 27,” said one woman. “When we’re ready.”

Group Plans to “Occupy the Hamptons” on Long Wharf

Tags: , , ,

web OccupyHAMPTONS_poster02-616x356

It’s unclear how many will attend, but sympathizers with the Occupy Wall Street movement will be occupying the Hamptons this weekend. Or, perhaps more specifically, they will be occupying Long Wharf in Sag Harbor.

To date there are about 30 “followers” to the Occupy the Hamptons Meet Up page, and about 16 “occupiers going” to attend Saturday’s event, scheduled to start at 4 p.m. Unlike the four-week-old sit-in in New York City’s Zuccotti Park, no one is actually expected to camp overnight, and according to one correspondent the entire event is supposed to wrap up by 7 p.m.

When it occurs, Sag Harbor will be one of dozens (possibly hundreds) of similar demonstrations happening in the United States and around the world.

“We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore,” said Sag Harbor’s Jim Monaco, who is one of the organizers of Saturday’s event, paraphrasing the line from the movie “Network.”

Monaco, an author and publisher, initiated the local movement just last weekend, after observing the protests in New York. In fact, he said, he passed by a demonstration two weeks ago on his way to the Manhattan apartment he maintains, and witnessed New York City Police corraling and macing demonstrators.

“I once wrote a book called ‘The Shell Game Economy,’” Monaco said in an interview, “and in the eight years since I wrote it, I’ve just seen the problems intensify.”

While the book was never published, Monaco remains concerned about the nature of banking and the world economy, and believes it is the underlying reason so many are demonstrating today.

There is reason, he believes, to be suspicious about how money is being handled in the country, and Monaco, echoing many in the Occupy Wall Street movement, points to the shoring up banks received two years ago in the wake of the financial collapse.

“Nobody benefited from that except the banks,” he said.

And while the banks continue to be stingy in their lending, and continue to reap profits, he observed, they also continue to charge what he believes are exorbitant rates to their customers.

“How does it happen you have to pay a $40 late fee with a credit card,” he asked.

According to the Meet Up page, the group expects to limit the attendance to Occupy the Hamptons to no more than 50 people. Commenters on the page also suggested organizing a bus to participate in the Manhattan protest, and suggested staging “occupations” at other East End locations, including Meadow Lane in Southampton “where several big Wall Street traders and billionaire polluter David Koch all live…”

“The message is,” said Monaco, “the Tea Party wanted to take the country back. We need to take the country forward.”

Image above from the Meet up page for Occupy the Hamptons.