Last Wednesday, thousands of students walked out of class to show their solidarity with Occupy Wall Street. The occupation has been steadily gaining support since it kicked off on September 17, and the student march made it clear that students and their concerns have a place in the larger movement.
Now, Occupy Wall Street is making its way even further into our lives. On Saturday, a general assembly was held in Washington Square Park, drawing over a thousand people and coming close to filling a place that most of us consider a part of our school. Unlike the general assemblies that take place regularly at OWS’ home base in Zuccotti Park, this one served as an introduction to the daily workings of the occupation and was clearly aimed at an audience of OWS rookies—many of whom students who were interested in learning more about the movement.
Participating in protests and marches such as the student walkout, or spending time at general assemblies can leave one with the impression that everyone is on board with this movement, but that’s not true. Even among the supporters, there have been arguments over the theory and execution of the protest. Outside of the protest, many people remain unclear of its purpose, its goals, or why they should care at all.
At the walkout, the issues of student debt and rising tuition costs were discussed in conversations, depicted on protest signs, and screamed about in chants—these are examples of those inequalities that protestors are talking about when they shout, “We are the 99%!” Citing the validity of the inequalities experienced by students, a group of students from schools around the city have organized weekly all-city student assemblies; the first will be this Saturday in Washington Square Park.
Faculty at the New School and Columbia/Barnard have already started signing petitions in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street. Both schools, along with the CUNY schools, played large parts in helping the walkout get so large. While the NYU faculty has yet to produce a petition of its own, some professors marched with the students last Wednesday and one—NYU visiting professor Slavoj Zizek—spoke in Zuccotti Park on Sunday afternoon, delivering an inspirational speech via the people’s mic.
Motivated by the success of the walkout, schools around the city are now forming their own OWS solidarity groups and holding general assemblies and educational teach-ins. Last Friday night, students marched to Battery Park and held organizing meetings to discuss how to best take advantage of the walkout’s momentum. For the NYU contingent, that meant forming a group around which students can continue to organize on campus. Tonight, that group will host its first teach-in at 5pm. Whether you support OWS or not, the occupation’s continuous growth is probably not going away soon—learning more about it seems like a good idea.