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Home / Articles / News / Features /  Political Re-Enfranchisement
occupy-santa-fe-by-laura-gerwin
Laura Gerwin

Political Re-Enfranchisement

America loves Occupy—and loves to hate it

December 21, 2011, 12:00 am

Journalists sometimes find it difficult to talk about Occupy. And yet Occupy, for many of us, demands our attention. On Sept. 17, a swarm of protesters descended on New York City’s Zuccotti Park. There they stayed.


It was big news when first dozens, then hundreds, then thousands of people showed up to express their discontent with the economic status quo. And when the movement spread to hundreds of cities around the country and abroad, that, too, was big news.


In the four months since, Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy movement as a whole have entered the social consciousness in a big way, with varying results.


“The word ‘occupy’ is very important right now,” SFR correspondent Melanie Hamlett says. “[The protesters’] presence got the attention of the nation.”


Occupiers in New York, Boston and San Francisco met with violent resistance, tear gas and evictions, while others, such as Occupy Santa Fe, were welcomed by their cities. 


“It seems like we continue to have really good relationships with Mayor Coss and the police department,” Occupy Santa Fe member Donato Jaggers tells SFR. “I think Occupy Santa Fe will be one of the last.”


Occupy Santa Fe is one of the lucky ones. The semi-permanent campsite in the Railyard is a step up from the movement’s original home on a vacant lot across Paseo de Peralta from the Bank of America. The city has provided the camp with portable toilets and allows the campers to remain without a permit. This is a far cry from Wall Street, where police with tear gas cleared out the Zuccotti Park camp in the middle of the night, or Albuquerque, where police forced campers out of Yale Park after University of New Mexico denied an appeal of the camping permit’s expiration date [SFReporter.com, Oct. 26: “36 Arrests at (Un)Occupy Albuquerque”].


Hamlett says a lot has changed for the camps that lost their sites. But, she says, “I think, at some level, it’s a relief now that the camps are gone. It’s an exhaustion feeding people all the time and dealing with the wind and the rain and the cops and the pepper spray. They didn’t really have the time to focus on the solutions.”


In New York, Hamlett says, the general assemblies continue to meet every day.


“I think one of the most important, unexpected aspects of the Occupy movement has been the creation of a forum for community political engagement,” Jaggers says, stressing that, because Occupy has no leaders, everything he says is his personal opinion. “The general assemblies we have, the working groups, the actions, even online Facebook pages have been creating a forum for all of us who have, for a long time, been politically disenfranchised.”


Hamlett agrees. “I felt like, for 10 years or however long it’s been since I graduated college, I’ve just known the system was broken,” she says. “During those three months of the movement, I actually fell in love with America again for the first time in forever.”

 

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