An update on the Occupy Ithaca movement
There was no doubt that Occupy Ithaca, the local movement in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, is still going strong when a crowd of supporters marched through downtown Ithaca on Feb. 10 to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the end of Mubarak’s rule in Egypt.
Joined by members of the Occupy Wall Street movement from New York City, who are currently on a bus tour throughout the Northeast, marchers carried a banner that read, “Celebrate People Power” and shouted chants such as, “Hell no, we won’t go / Ithaca to Cairo.”
The march eventually spilled onto the streets, while marchers danced and shouted, “Hands up / hands down / there’s a revolution in this town!” The marchers blocked traffic for a brief moment at the intersection near Collegetown Bagels. Following the march, participants reconvened at the Bernie Milton Pavilion in the center of the Commons. A police officer soon addressed them, declaring that while the protest was allowed, the marchers were not allowed to block roads for safety reasons. Police continued to be present but kept a respectful distance, at least 50 feet from the gathering.
The large turnout at the rally was reminiscent of the early general assemblies that took place in Dewitt Park in the fall. Since that time, the number has decreased to about ten or 11 people, but it appears the support for the movement has not entirely subsided.
Along with the various working group meetings, which also have regular sets of attendees, the general assembly meetings continue to be held regularly every Sunday at 2 p.m. and Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
The meetings have taken on a more efficient structure, often with specified lengths of time allotted to each portion of the meeting, and the conversations have shifted from expressions of frustration with corporate greed on the national level to locally focused goals and outreach strat gies.
Rich Hilliard, Ithaca resident and participant in Occupy Ithaca, has found that many of the group’s actions are toward building the local movement. “I think you need to build solidarity before you want to challenge such widespread institutions,” Hilliard said. “I also think Ithaca is a strong community, and people are concerned about what happens here to their neighbors.”
At one general assembly, Occupy Ithaca participant and Ithaca College graduate Mike Amadeo said that he would like to see the group’s focus to be on problems based in Ithaca. He suggested the possibility of creating a working group specifically devoted to holding Cornell University accountable as a large institution, whose research and actions have drawn concern from members of the movement.
On Nov. 21, 2011, some members of Occupy Ithaca began an encampment in Dewitt Park, similar to the occupation that had been in Zuccotti Park. The occupants were forced to end their encampment in late December when the city denied participants permission to occupy the park. Remaining is one tent on a patch of lawn belonging to First Baptist Church. The tent is periodically occupied during hours of the day and night.
Reverend Rich Rose of First Baptist Church said that he offered the space to the occupiers in order to help make a statement of their shared frustration with the current economic system and disparity between the rich and the poor.
“It’s a conversation starter, it’s provocative. It provides a location, a physical location for conversations to take place,” Rose said. “I think just the visible symbol of the tents, whether they’re literally being slept in, or [are] just symbolic, is very important.”
What’s Going On with Occupy Ithaca College?
Since the Occupy movement reached the Ithaca College campus in October 2011, support for the movement has remained on the campus, but it has moved away from the structure of consistent GA meetings and working groups that is customary for most Occupy movements. While the GA meetings still take place every Tuesday during the lunch hour, attendance is relatively inconsistent. The gatherings now function more as a way for participants to stay informed on the national movement, said organizer Lee Ann Hill ’13. The main goal of Occupy IC is now to encourage student involved in the local solidarity movement in town, said organizer Gabe Alvarez-Millard ’12.
Gena Mangiaratti is a junior journalism major who is preoccupied with Occupy. Email her at gmangia1[at]ithaca[dot]edu.