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Occupy Claims 99% Spring “Co-Opted” Its Movement

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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.”

National Movement “Springs” in Sag Harbor

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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.”

Hope to “Save the Windmill”

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By Emily J. Weitz

The magic of Sag Harbor’s Main Street is almost impossible to taint, when the Christmas lights twinkle and the garlands are wrapped royally around white columns.

Almost, but not quite.

When storefronts stand vacant and the village’s landmark windmill looks crippled with its broken blade, it seems the recession has finally hit home.

The iconic windmill has been in need of repairs for some time, but when a major windstorm knocked a significant portion of one of the blades down a few weeks ago, its deteriorating condition became harder to ignore. Emails bounced around the circuits of concerned citizens, notably the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce and Save Sag Harbor.

Now, in a spirit reminiscent of the Sag Harbor Cinema sign restoration several years back, people are poised to pool their energy to save the windmill.

The only question is “How?”

It’s not like the windmill has been completely neglected. Built in the 1960s for the Old Whaler’s Festival, the village just completed a round of repairs including new siding and windows, at a cost of $8,700, according to Phil Bucking, a member of the Chamber of Commerce.

“The next round will include floor repairs, additional wood shingles, and replacement of the windmill blades,” he said in an email. “There are currently bids out on the different phases of the project. Once a blade design has been determined, cost estimates will be needed for them as well.”

Bucking says a contractor is researching a long-lasting design for the blades so they won’t need to be replaced again anytime soon. As for the siding, it’s now “a combination of new and old wood shingles,” says Bucking. “The goal is to re-side the entire building.”

“We want it to stay as a landmark,” says April Gornik, head of the advisory board at Save Sag Harbor, “and it also has to be safe. Blades can’t be falling off. All the blades most likely need to be replaced. There’s a lot to do.”

Because the blade came off in a windstorm, the first question was in regards to insurance, which was not immediately clear.

“I was told emphatically that there was no insurance on the windmill,” says Gornik, “and then I was told the opposite. We still need to establish who is really responsible, and whether there’s insurance, a deductible… Perhaps most importantly a fund needs to be established specific to the windmill. Once that happens, we’re in favor of working with the Chamber to make sure repairs occur.”

Save Sag Harbor has mobilized in the interest of village identity many times, and they are already planning how to raise the necessary funds for the windmill.

“We’d like to do something very family-oriented and fun,” says Gornik, “and have everyone join together because the windmill, like the movie theatre sign and the Whaling Museum, have both sentimental and historical significance to the village.”

Gornik envisions an event at a local restaurant, with lots of donated food and drinks, raffles and auctions.

“We’ll make it fun and big, and have it happen in the winter,” she says. “People need things to do in the winter. It’s just really important that everyone comes together.”

Bucking emphasizes the significance of the windmill as “a Sag Harbor icon. Repairs are needed. While the final cost hasn’t been determined, a project of this scope will cost several thousand dollars.”

The Chamber of Commerce and Save Sag Harbor are collaborating to organize the fundraising event.

“Over the coming weeks,” says Bucking, “the details will be worked out. Volunteers are needed so if anyone is interested in getting involved, they are encouraged to contact the Chamber (725-0011) or Save Sag Harbor (info@savesagharbor.com).”

It does seem, with closing businesses and buildings in need of some upkeep, that there’s a deeper resonance to the disrepair of the windmill.

“It has everything to do with the economy,” says Gornik. “It’s difficult for everyone… It’s hard to get people interested in things like this that might seem superfluous when they’re stressed about the economy. But it’s also a way to celebrate what we are, who we are, what we have and a shared pride we can enjoy in this area. Preserving buildings like this reminds people that we have a lot to be grateful for, and celebrate together. It’s important these things remain in good repair, as a celebration of who we are.”