Columbia Students Joined OWS

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Yesterday afternoon, nearly two hundred Columbia students walked and pedalled downtown to join the Occupy Wall Street protests. Some professors ended class early, and even joined the ranks of protestors. Thank you to skillful photographers Caitlin Watson, Wilfred Chan (both CC ’13) and Peter Sterne (CC’14) for providing these photographs. 

Sarah Ngu, CC’12 was among the Columbians who went down to Wall Street yesterday. It was the first time she had joined the protests. Here she relates some of what she saw. Feel free to share your own pictures, experiences, observations and opinions in the comments, or send them to us at tips@bwog.com.

I went around asking different people why they were here. Two forty-year-old Mexican women were here because HB56 was passed in Alabama, allowing police to come into schools and take kids away and deport them with their families. They weren’t from Alabama, but those taken away were “their people” nevertheless. Some people gave me rather rehearsed speeches and I walked away. A woman, holding up a sign that said “This is the first time in a long that I feel hopeful,” just shrugged and said that the sign spoke for itself. She came down from Albany to be a part of this. A group of sex workers wanted more legal rights.

There was one girl who stood out – her name was Monica and her father emptied out his retirement fund to pay for her $19k/year tuition at Rutgers. She initially had a scholarship, but after it was taken away after budget cuts, she’s working two jobs. Not a whole lot of students in Rutgers cared, she told me, looking up to me as if Columbia students were much more involved and aware. I didn’t tell her that I walked by hundreds of people lounging in the grass on the way to the subway station.

Most people protesting were not homeless; many seemed employed. But everyone was out here with a burden to unload, whether it was about healthcare or education. More than anything, they had worked with the system – got a job, worked hard – but bills still weren’t paid and one still had to make hard choices between one’s retirement fund and one’s daughter’s tuition.

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  1. John

    Maybe the people lounging in the grass realize that OWS is far too ineffectual and disorganized to be worth spending time on.

    • Anonymous  

      Glad to see they're spending their time doing something much more effective.

    • Disorganized?  

      No. No, no, no. I spent the night there on the 17th, and in that first day, they accomplished a hell of a lot for a group "disorganized" hippies just hanging out in a park. You know how the so-called "echo-chamber" system is better than a megaphone? It forces you to listen, and using that system they managed to collaboratively spread the words of individuals to hundreds, to truly communicate. Using that system alone (and lacking any single leader), they divided over a hundred people into functional teams; these teams managed food, shelter, medical services, legal resources, and social media involvement among other things.

      They haven't toppled any mountains, they haven't overthrown any governments, and they don't have any official demands, but it seems so backwards to me that anyone would think to call them disorganized. They're organized enough to amass hundreds, then thousands of individuals from around the nation in one location, successfully sustain themselves as a group, and successfully communicate with each other as a group. So many people say they aren't actually /doing/ anything, but before you effect change, you need to speak--and more importantly, you need to listen. They've done a brilliant job of that.

      On the first night, I was impressed. Three weeks in, I remain impressed. They're determined, they're passionate, and they're giving voice to the dissatisfaction of so many individuals who time after time have been silenced by a system that's supposed to be looking out for them, for us. Something will come of this. Even if the results aren't tangible, something will come of this.

  2. Anonymous  

    love these signs! I want to make one that says "THIS SIGN MAKES IT LOOK LIKE I'M FIGHTING FOR SOMETHING"

  3. Anonymous  

    so dumb. gosh.

  4. Anonymous  

    The sadness of the matter is that there is no clear agenda or leadership of any sort. They are very disorganized in what they are doing.

  5. Anonymous

    Unless things change, many CC grads may not be able to find jobs.

    I think everyone at Columbia has a stake in this.

  6. Twitch

    Yeah. Blue hair and drums screams "I understand economics."

  7. Who  

    is the kid standing to the left of the guy with the blue hair? He's rly cute!!

  8. Van Owen

    Yeah...I hate fucking hippies.

  9. CC '14  

    I understand the need to express frustration and to feel like part of a cohesive group, but I really can't figure out what OWS is hoping to accomplish. The fact that they have chosen to "occupy /wall street/", the traditional financial center of New York, indicates that their main complaint is about the state of the economy. Fair enough, but who are they complaining to? With our sky-high budget deficit, can they really expect the government to spend more than it already is? Would they like a redistribution of wealth from the mythical "wall streeters" to them (in which case, communism has been proven over and over not to work on the large scale)? Does it even make sense to complain about the economy, health care, immigration and god knows what else all together without any direct target or specific demands or ideas?

    I'm not trying to attack OWS. I genuinely wish to understand what's going on. If the answer is that it's just a group of people gathering to vent and thereby feel a little bit better, that's fine and I don't have anything against it--I just want to know if there's anything more to it.

  10. i see you  

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