- How are you involved with Students for a Democratic Society? Why did you become involved?
I am an organizer for Students for a Democratic Society. I founded the chapter at MSU because it became obvious to me that the campus needs an organization where students, who are normally taken advantage of really easily by the administration, can have a voice and be heard. Right now, among other things, I am heavily involved in promoting Occupy Wall Street on the campus and in increasing the student voice within the movement. We are planning a teach-in about Occupy Wall Street on October 26th at 2:30 at the outdoor amphitheater (Dickson 172 if it rains).
- What do you think about the current protests and what is the goal of the movement?
I am really hopeful about the current protests. I’ve heard some people say that it’s just going to turn into a reelection campaign for Obama. I would like to think that the people at the 1,000+ occupations will not be satisfied that easily. I also keep hearing criticism from people, most of which have just walked through the occupation several times or have not been there at all, about the occupation being misguided, lacking direction and leadership, and just a bunch of “lazy jobless hippies.” This is not the case at all. The protest is in no way misguided because it is a symbolic attack on the 1%, it exposes their tyranny, and brings people together. I don’t think its lack of demands is a weakness either. The list of demands is always growing and I don’t think people should limit their visions of a better world to a list of demands. The protest sends the message: “We are outraged with the way society is functioning right now. We are going to recreate our own version of society and show you that it is possible, fun, and honorable to take care of one another instead of living a greed-filled life.” Or something like that.
- What do you think will be resolved by the protests?
I have no idea what will be resolved by the protests. I hope a lot. Like I said earlier, the people who are staying there over night are set up to stay for a long time. The problems being presented are problems that are almost never brought up by mainstream society; they are taboo--ever-increasing poverty, student debt, unemployment, endless amounts of money being poured into war, etc. These problems can not be solved by passing a few laws because laws have loopholes and probably aren’t enforced anyway.. Massive structural change has to happen in the United States. Let’s start by giving people their basic rights: right to a decent education through college, right to food, healthcare, clean air and water—obvious things that are denied to people, when we definitely have enough technology and money to the provide support (Dear tea partiers, we could have almost INDFEINITE amounts of money if we slashed our pentagon spending). If we don’t give the people rights like these, they might be appeased for a while by a few laws, but it will never shut them up for good. People will always organize for change when there is injustice, no matter what the risk is.
- Have you gone out to the occupation? If so, please describe what it was like for you?
I have spent an extensive amount of time at the occupation with various members of the SDS. It’s different every time. During the marches is when it usually has the most power and energy. When there is nothing going on, Liberty Plaza sort of becomes a tourist attraction. But it never really loses its political message. It’s not like a bunch of hippies just hanging out and having a good time. Everything they do has a deliberate political message. People are talking politics everywhere, learning from one another, sharing beliefs, connecting on levels that are otherwise denied by the constraints of “private lives” and 8 hour work days (constraints that prevent people from organizing or caring about one another and serve to isolate individuals).
I’ve also participated in civil disobedience at the OWS protests, which almost got me arrested, but at the same time was life changing. We tried to march onto Wall Street last Wednesday night and I was in the front lines as cops started spraying mace and beating people with their batons. They then proceeded to corral us (like sheep) with orange netting until we were fenced in. We sat in the closed area for a half hour and I thought for sure I would be arrested. But I knew what I was doing was right—exposing the injustices built into the system. Later that night, we (a group of at least 1,000 people) tried to do an impromptu march down the streets as an act of civil disobedience (“Whose streets? Our Streets! Whose streets? Our Streets!”), and I saw people being dragged onto the ground by cops right in front of me. This is not a fantasy of some anarchist punk who wants to be a rebel and disobey the rules. The civil disobedience that is going on is not given a lot of media attention, yet is probably the most important element of the protest because it directly challenges the laws that limit the voice of the movement. It raises the questions, who are the police really protecting and why?
- Why did you get involved with the protests, how does it speak to you particularly?
I knew about the protests since July and wanted to get involved from the start. The first day I went, it looked like about 100 people trying to turn the protest into some sort of artistic expression. I went home disappointed, thinking this was the worst protest I’ve been to. Now, its grown and has more organization to it. Normally people go to protests, march, and then they go home back to their fragmented and isolated lives. Now, they stay there or come back repeatedly and gain more people.
- As a representative of the 99%, what is your message to the masses?
Your life might be comfortable, but that’s not what is important. It’s not an accident that we are left disempowered with the belief that we can get by as individuals fighting for “the survival of the fittest.” It’s becoming obvious that that method is destroying society and more importantly, the world. The 99% have to learn to work together. If you are of the 99% (you probably are), you can criticize and critique the Occupy Wall Street movement, but if you try to dismiss it altogether, you better come up with an alternative way of fixing society because something needs to be done fast