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Forum examines issues sparking Occupy rallies

Misconceptions, goals of movement discussed

By Alexandra Waite, associate editor
On December 6, 2011

Several students indicated a lack of understanding the Occupy Wall Street movement as the reason behind their hesitation to participate in its protests during the "DeOccupy CCC" forum held in the Fireside Room on Thursday.

"Students here don't really know about the issues," La Raza Student Union President Esmeralda Frias said. "All they see about (the Occupy movement) is the violence on the news. We need to approach it in a different way; we're going to keep doing (these events)."

The event, hosted by the LRSU, addressed the ignorance of students about the Occupy movement's complex issues regarding economic inequality and aimed to further educate those familiar with the movement and interested in learning more.

Three speakers shared their involvement in the movement with about 30 students, staff and community members, and then each spectator was encouraged to add to the discussion or ask for clarification about an issue.

Men's soccer coach Rudy Zeller and activist Frank Runninghorse explained the specifics of the movement and its issues for students. UC Berkeley student Xamuel Bañales, though supportive of the movement, critiqued its shortcomings to incite analysis from students and encourage them to tackle the movement's problems.

"For people of color, being the 99 percent is not the case, it's just a blanket statement," Bañales said.

He said he likes that the movement brings up inequality, but from the indigenous perspective, "occupy" is a charged word.

The "de-occupy" in the event's name brought up the perspective that the 99 percent are already occupied by the 1 percent, and in order to break free, they must "de-occupy."

Bañales said he is working with student groups at Cal to change "Occupy" Oakland to "Decolonize" or "Liberate" Oakland.

"The reason Occupy is blowing up is because the white middle class is affected now," he said. "What would happen if people got their jobs and houses back? People wouldn't care about changing society."

Zeller, who has been a political activist since the 1960s, said he is optimistic about the Occupy movement because of its breadth, depth and possibilities.

"That's the strength of the movement. Everyone's involved, everyone's invited in," he said. "The general assembly is an experience of real democracy at work."

Before Occupy, Zeller said he had never seen a forum where people of all walks of life could participate democratically.

Bañales, however, said people need to be more critical about the movement and work to prevent creating another hierarchy like the one it's fighting.

"Privilege has been brought into the general assembly," he said. "If we're going to have general assemblies, we should make them more accessible to those who don't have the privilege to be there (due to other obligations)."

The general assembly is open, wide and broad, but lacks accountability and is so loose infiltrators come to meetings and screw up what organizers try to accomplish, he said.

Richmond Progressive Alliance member Jose Rivera said having the forum at CCC was important in helping the movement grow in Richmond.

"Older people can't do everything, we have to train students," Rivera said. "Hopefully they can continue (the movement) here. It might wake up some students."

Nursing major Selena Hao said a lot of people get information from big news stations about Occupy and it is important for students to hear from the actual people involved.

In response to students' ignorance regarding the movement, Rivera said he was confused about Occupy at first also.

"One thing I did understand was everyone was frustrated about the economy going down the drain," he said. "There are no jobs, and that is affecting everybody. (Occupy) is an economic struggle, but it's barely starting."

Frias said next semester the LRSU hopes to put on more Occupy events.


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