In response to clashes between police and members of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement in Oakland, Calif., this week, a dozen Cornell students gathered for the second “Occupy Cornell” rally on Central Campus Wednesday.
Unlike the first rally, during which participants sought to associate with both the national “Occupy” movement and address issues specific to the University, Wednesday’s rally was more explicitly linked to a show of support for the embattled Occupy Oakland protests, organizers said.
“Today’s event, in particular, is to show solidarity with Occupy Oakland,” said Jacob Krell grad, a participant in rally. “We hope that our presence here will raise awareness about the reports of increased violence [in Oakland].”
Members of the Occupy Cornell movement began their demonstration on Ho Plaza before proceeding through Willard Straight Hall, Uris Library and Olin Library, distributing quarter cards and fliers to nearby students throughout the march.
In an email obtained by The Sun, the Occupy Cornell coordinators laid out a detailed strategy to conduct the protest.
The email also urged participants to use “direct, provocative quarter carding (not passive quarter carding).”
“[The Occupy Cornell movement] has changed dramatically since our last rally,” said Max McCullough ’12, a participant in both rallies and vice president of the Cornell Democrats. “The first rally provided an impetus to start Occupy Cornell as an independent presence on campus.”
McCullough said that while the Cornell Democrats organized the first rally with other groups such as KyotoNOW!, Wednesday’s march through Central Campus was not affiliated with any other campus organizations.
While McCullough said that the goal of this march through Central Campus was “mostly about increasing our visibility,” some student passersby said they were confused by the “Occupiers.”
“They have every right to hand out fliers, but I don’t know what they’re fighting for,” said Sean Ruane ’15, who walked by Wednesday’s protest on Ho Plaza. “It’s impractical, I feel as though they’re not going to get anything they want from the University.”
By branching out from the organizations that put together the first rally, Occupy Cornell organizers said they are establishing the foundations for self-dependency.
“We want the support [of progressive groups on campus], and I believe we have similar ends. But we don’t expect anything from them, and they don’t expect anything from us,” McCullough said. “This is our own effort.”
Despite increasing its organizational structure, participants in Occupy Cornell said they were in no rush to formulate distinct goals.
“We’re uncomfortable defining our goals until a larger quorum of Cornell students become involved,” said Cat Lauck ’14, who participated in Wednesday’s rally. “Eventually, we do want to address issues at Cornell.”
She cited student debt and the “Ivy League to Wall Street connection” as two problems Occupy Cornell would seek to remedy.
McCullough said that the movement sought to tackle “Cornell-centric” issues in the future.
“I’m not sure what we can anticipate going forward, but I imagine that we will end up presenting specific demands,” he said.
Prof. John Weiss, history, the sole faculty member at this rally, and said he has “tagged along” to other Occupy Cornell meetings. He said he did not think that the lack of an emphasis on local issues was a problem for Occupy Cornell.
“I think the unfocused nature of these protests are indicative of any social movement of this sort,” Weiss said.
Weiss said he disagreed that Occupy Cornell should tackle on-campus issues. That sort of activism, he said, is not what he sees as the movement’s goal.
“Some people want to see the University as the center of society and culture, a place that ought to be changed and reformed. Others think that the University is like a cockpit, from which students can direct larger conversations to solve problems in the outside world. I think [Occupy Cornell] is of the latter category,” Weiss said. “This is solidarity.”
McCullough, however, said that if the Occupy Cornell movement is to gain traction with the student community, it must differentiate itself to some extent from the national protests.
“Occupy Cornell is not Occupy Wall Street. Ithaca is not New York City. That reality will color whatever demands we end up making,” McCullough said.