Occupy Boston takes over Financial District

News Staff Photo/Meghan McVeigh

 

By Jill Bongiorni, News Staff

and Greg Mcinerney, News Correspondent

 

A city within a city has been constructed in downtown Boston.

Since pitching tents Friday night, Occupy Boston has taken over Dewey Square, serving as a self-sufficient city of protest.

The on-going leaderless initiative, inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement that began in New York Sept. 17, is fighting unemployment and corporate influence in politics.

The groups are seeking an end to “corporate greed and corruption” and cite the recent Arab Spring as a peaceful protest model to achieve their hopes of change. The group has a sizable online presence with a Facebook page containing over 10,000 likes, a Twitter page with over 4,000 followers as of press time and a newly developed website detailing its modus operandi.

“We are the 99%, and our task is to unify the 99%,” reads Occupy Boston’s Internal Solidarity Statement, referring to the statistic that one percent of America’s population controls 42 percent of the nation’s wealth.

“Unfortunately, we live in a society that is racist, sexist, classist, homophobic, and ridden with various other forms of oppression. As the Occupy Boston community, we will consciously and urgently work on dismantling these systems of oppression in our movement. We are working on creating a community where everyone’s rights are respected, protected, and treated equally.”

The headcount reached up to 1,000 protesters on Friday alone, the Daily Free Press reported, and the movement has only continued to grow.

“I’m fed up,” Kevin Greenhall, a 28-year-old local delivery driver, said. “We are at a turning point in our country’s history; we can either come together now and fight or continue to be controlled by faceless corporations and their puppet government.”

Boston Area Labor Council agreed. Tuesday night, Occupy Boston announced via Twitter that the labor council, which represents 135 unions, will endorse the initiative.

Last night, the Massachusetts Teachers Association posted on its website (www.massteacher.org) that they are also supporting the movement.

The post reads “The MTA supports Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Boston and similar protests across the country that are calling attention to political and economic systems that are unfairly rewarded the wealthy at the expense of everyone else and are contributing to high levels of unemployment and economic insecurity.”

Similarly, the Massachusetts Nurses Association announced it will endorse the movement as well. Hundreds of the city’s nurses rallied with the Occupy Boston protesters yesterday as part of the opening day activities for a national nursing convention.

Northeastern students have acknowledged the movement as well and even organized a walk yesterday as a part of National Student Walk-out Day to demonstrate against unforgivable student debt and soaring tuition. About 100 students met at Centennial Common at noon and several walked downtown as a public demonstration of their support. An estimated 120 schools were gathered at South Station at 3 p.m. airing their support.

“My father served this country’s military for over 20 years and is now facing the prospect of foreclosing on his mortgage. My mother is a single mother like millions of others in this country who can’t afford to pay her bills and a healthcare plan,” said Frank Marino, an international affairs major, who attended the student rally yesterday. “The government is disincentivizing young people who educate themselves by placing such a huge debt burden on university students, who in turn cannot afford to repay this debt because there are no jobs.”

The Occupy movements sweeping the nation have attracted serious media attention from news outlets around the country and the world, including Al Jazeera.

Occupy Boston specifically has been maintaining a peaceful relationship with the Boston Police Department (BPD), which is in stark contrast with the Occupy Wall Street movement, where 700 protesters were arrested on Saturday.

Universal Hub reported that police formed a line in front of the Federal Reserve Bank building Friday to let demonstrators have their say. Similarly, on Saturday, BPD officials blocked off side streets along Newbury Street to let protestors march.

The movement is a highly organized outfit, with its heavy social network presence garnering a solid support base. The movement also targets the student population heavily, drawing comparisons with the recent uprising in Egypt where a young student population provided the initial drive for revolution.

“Our country has gotten away from what once were it core values. Corporate organizations now take priority over the welfare of our citizen,” senior environmental sciences major Jessica Feldish, who also participated in yesterday’s rally, said. “The American dream is an illusion and we as students in particular should be concerned with the reduction in federal financial aid towards education and the huge debt burden we face going forward into the workplace.”

Internally too, they are far from naïve.

Protestors are lectured on how to deal with interviewers and the media, and specific groups are assigned to planning specific events and protests. The movement may have no direct leaders, but there are prominent figures present within these smaller groups, many of whom had been in attendance at their sister protests in New York earlier the past couple of week.

“Occupy Boston is not a single group with a single demand, but we feel our national leaders have let us down too many times, and the government needs to fundamentally change,” occupyboston.com reads.

This sense of disenfranchisement was shared by John Doyle, a 24-year-old engineer currently out of work, who attended the protests this weekend.

“Obama came to office with a mandate for change, but that hasn’t happened. I don’t see any of the GOP candidates offering much either,” he said.

Critics of the movement point to the group’s lack of leadership and continue to question whether this is an anti-capitalist movement or a movement in favor of reform of the current system.

“These are our strengths, not our weaknesses,” replied one masked protestor who refused to be named. “People keep asking me who is leading this protest and I respond ‘everyone.’ It doesn’t matter if you’re anti-capitalism or for the reform of what we got now, what matters is what we have now isn’t working and it’s time for change, real change.”