It’s a scene that’s all over the media these days- groups of disgruntled, mangy looking protestors carrying signs with messages like “We are the 99%” and “People over Profits”. And aside from a much higher level of hygiene, this particular group of occupiers wasn’t all that different.
The Occupy UMaine protest, appears to be genuinely what the national group claims to be- a loosely organized group of disgruntled college students who are angry about the excesses of Wall Street. For weeks at the campus in Orono, signs about the Occupy UMaine’s agenda have been popping up in various academic buildings.
As is evident from the above photos taken from material the group has posted, their objective includes putting a cap on the amount of wealth an individual can possess, but to compensate for that, spiritual and mental freedom will remain unlimited. Another stated desire is the familiar progressive agenda to make food, health care, jobs and homes mandated human rights.
Their flyers also state that they want to decentralize the economy and rely on local production to sustain a global economy- a task that is almost certainly unfeasible without some sort of centralized distribution system.
I, as a student at the University, walked by these flyers many times on the way to my classes, and when the group started to announce the rally they would be holding on Wednesday November 30th at noon on campus, I decided to go there and question some of the protestors about their stated goals.
Now, I did not see the entire rally as I had a class that I went to since I understand that proving responsibility and commitment, not to mention proficiency, is what helps you earn achievements in life. But when I did get there at about 12:40, the group of protestors were standing around a tent, holding signs, and listening and cheering to the indignant speeches of their fellow protestors. There were both college students and several older members of the community there, holding signs that said things like “End the wars” and “Redistribute the Wealth”. Other slogans included “People Power”, “We deserve equality” and “Dear corporate America, pay your f-ing taxes” (Note, obscenity edited by author).
Soon after I arrived, they began to organize to march across the campus. I managed to catch the attention of one of the protestors and asked him some questions about the Occupy movement, both at UMaine and the movement as a whole.
He stated the goals of the Occupy UMaine movement to be to establish a system where humans profit, to go local to act globally and to reconnect around the individual.
When I asked him exactly what sort of system would do this, he reluctantly admitted that it was either socialism or communism, although he specified that the system does not need to be defined, it just needs to connect to humans and to fulfill individuals. I think it is worthwhile to note that the apparent symbol of Occupy Umaine, which was previously posted as the group’s Facebook profile picture and appears on flyers around campus, bears a striking resemblance to the Communist fist. Also, the groups flyers state that they want to protect the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. Since many of the principles and the ideas found in these documents are the antithesis of those found in communism, this is an interesting statement.
I was very curious to know his thoughts on much of the negative press coverage the movement has received, in particular the appearance of anti- semitism and much of the violence and rape. When I questioned him about anti-semitism and whether it had a place in the movement or undermined the message of the movement, he was confused. He did not understand the reference. I had to explain to him that there have been instances of people blaming Jews for the situation on Wall Street and wanting to run them out of the country. I also asked him about the endorsement of the movement by groups like the Nazi Party USA and the association with Greek terrorist group N-17. At first he tried to deny the association of these groups, and then stated that they may claim they’re part of the movement, but they’ve missed the point. He once again stated that the entire movement was about peace and compassion.
I then asked him about the calls for beheading of corporate executives that have come from some members of the movements, and whether or not he supported this or believed it undermined the supposedly peaceful message of the movement. Interestingly, he responded that there shouldn’t be beheading, while avoiding the question of whether or not this undermined their peaceful and compassionate stance. He told me that the executives were actually victims as a result of a system that creates wealth. He said everything was the system’s fault, yet could not be more specific about how exactly or why, and that the system needs to be reconstructed.
In summary, the Occupy Umaine group is ultimately peaceful and nonviolent. From what I saw and heard, they genuinely want peace and compassion. They are genuinely upset with the system, although apparently cannot name how or why and do not have a specific plan to fix the faults of the system. The emphasis on going local with the economy to empower the people appears to be connected with the environmentalist movement, which would make sense given that Maine is largely agricultural.