Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Occupy Hampshire at last gets underway

On November 17, at 11:00, a handful of students—some walked out of classes, others were free in any case—assembled in the wind and cold on the Library plaza to demonstrate their concerns, prior to joining a town-wide "Occupy" rally on the Common in the afternoon.

It was a relatively small but impassioned group. I was the only faculty member present at first, though about a half-dozen others eventually arrived. Two of them, from my School of Critical Social Inquiry, were featured speakers. Margaret Cerullo spoke for nearly 15 minutes on a wide range of topics, from the nature of the movement and the subversive appropriation of time and space to the penetration of the policing mentality in society at large. Chris Tinson spoke for about five minutes, on race and social justice and the nature of true radical thought and action.

Below are some video documents of the event, which I offer without commentary. I had only my phone with me, so I recorded what I could on that. Regrettably, I cannot share recordings of the two faculty speakers; due to a technical problem, those clips lack proper sound. Fortunately, someone else captured them here and here.

I hadn't been quite sure what to expect: the Occupy movement has common global and local concerns, as well as numerous specific local ones. It is a dynamic phenomenon, still evolving. By the time of this rally, it had established itself as a real force, but was also facing a moment of decision if not crisis: how to respond to both the onset of harsher weather and harsher police actions. Certainly, such a movement takes on different contours in a metropolis such as New York or Boston vs. a small rural college town such as Amherst.

At first, the talks did seem (as I had expected) to deal with global issues in both the literal and figurative sense. Soon, however, the talk turned to the situation at the College, which I found much more interesting. Hampshire College may be an "alternative" (or as we prefer: "experimenting") educational institution, but it is also an elite and extremely expensive one: combined cost of tuition, room, and board (or TRB, as the administrators call it) is over $ 53,000 per year. One wondered how students at such an institution (even if 83 percent of them do receive financial aid) would view their own situation.

Chant: "money for jobs and education, not for war and occupation!"

Chant: "whose school? our school!"

denouncing the destruction of "Occupy" camp at Liberty Plaza; solidarity with the movement around the world
"This is our country, and we're going to take it back."

Chant: "they say no, we say fight, education is a right!"

Chant: "from Oakland to Greece: disarm the police!"

explaining the "human mic"

"working at Hampshire College should be a good job"

"I don't know what it would be like to go to a college in what we call the real world, I think I would go fucking crazy" ("human mic" breaks down in this one)

UMass student: "we gotta get out of this reformist rhetoric" in this capitalist, racist, society. They will not fuck with us anymore." "shit just got really crazy."

"Occupy Wall Street--not Palestine!"
Student praises alleged "divestment from the Israeli occupation of Palestine," criticizes College's process for creating new socially responsible investment policy

Sodexo which runs Hampshire dining services, is also "the largest provider of prison food in the United States." We are part of "a pipeline that is funneling us into the capitalist system, that's preparing us to be quote-unquote 'productive' members of society"

"human mic" discusses the international links of the movement: not just the US, but slavery, colonialism, imperialism "without which it wouldn't be"

Chant: "What solution? Revolution!"

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