Students and citizens plan to Occupy Raleigh

By Will Brooks,

Published: Saturday, October 8, 2011

Updated: Sunday, October 9, 2011 19:10

Hundreds of people gathered downtown in Moore Square last Sunday to begin a local addition to the protests that have "occupied" most of America’s major cities.

Students and citizens are fed up with the United States government and its role in supporting large corporations. Occupy Raleigh was formed as a response to the Occupy Wall Street protests that began Sept. 17 in New York City.

Ryan Thomson, a graduate student in sociology, immediately became active in Occupy Raleigh’s student effort.

"[We’re against] capitalism as it currently exists," Thomson said, "It’s absolutely disgusting that the top one percent can control so much wealth while people are being kicked out of their houses."

Thomson led a student discussion in Moore Square Sunday and staged a walkout last Wednesday. He has also gathered students to advertise Occupy Raleigh with flyers reading, "We are the 99%," the motto of the Occupy movement.

Protesters are fed up with the federal system, and with a broad problem-set comes a broad range of protesters. Thomson explained that the range of protestors includes Tea Partiers, Anarchists, Socialists and many others.

This protest was conceived by no more than word of mouth and Facebook. It came together swiftly, not just in Raleigh, but also all around the country.

Citizens gathered to speak one-by-one in Moore Square, and it appeared that everyone at the meeting wanted to express their disappointment with the current capitalist system. One speaker, Hunter Savage, had just arrived from New York City after a day in the center of the protest on Wall Street.

"I spent one day in New York, I spent all of my money to go, I haven’t slept since Friday and it was totally worth it," Savage said.

Savage explained that in New York he was often surrounded by police and thought himself lucky not to have been beaten or arrested. On Oct. 2, 700 protesters were arrested at the Brooklyn Bridge as Occupiers attempted to cross. There have also been accounts of police pepper-spraying and beating protesters.

As a testament to the movement’s diversity, Congressman Brad Miller appeared at the Occupy Raleigh meeting. It looked as if the movement had brought people from ages 15 to 65 of all genders and all ethnicities.

Dick Reavis, professor of journalism, participated in the Civil Rights movement of the ’60s, and he also participated in last Wednesday’s walkout. Reavis believes that the Occupy protests are very similar in nature to the student-led protests of the ’60s in which he took part.

"These kids are doing the right thing, and I want to help them out," Reavis said.

The Occupy protests could be seen as disorganized, but both the Occupiers and the numerous issues being protested are so diverse that there is no recognizable structure. The appearance of disorganization has caused these strong-minded citizens to be seen as a motley crew, but they are hopeful that as their objectives become clearer to the public, this image could change.

Thomson explains that the Occupy Wall Street protests began as an expression of anger toward the system, but now they are a way for citizens to express their wants and needs. There will be a vote to see which issues should be on the forefront of protest; this will allow issues to come afloat rather than broad discontent.

At the walkout, Tara Beck, a senior in international studies, explained how corporate greed has affected her personally.

"I’ve seen what a corrupt system can do," Beck said, " My parents are a half-million dollars in medical debt, and I have family who have been working jobs for 20 years who have been laid off."

Savage believes that college-age students could make a huge difference in Occupy protests. "The youth is a huge part of this movement. We need to be, because we’re the future," Savage said.

Occupy Raleigh has plans to begin major protests on Oct. 15. Students interested in involvement are encouraged to stay updated through the Occupy Raleigh Facebook group.

Source: Technician Online

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