Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

‘Occupy’ movement takes to part of UMass

Interrupting the speech of one of the participators at the Occupy UMass demonstration yesterday, the latest in a series of spin-off events from the Occupy Wall Street movement, sophomore Avery Normyle started protesting the protest. 

“More people have died under that symbol than any other,” he said while gesturing to a sickle, a widely recognized symbol of communism on a protester’s sign.

In response to his remarks, the crowd of nearly 100 people chanted back at him: “We are the 99 percent, you are the 99 percent.”

Yesterday’s event, like some other recent protests, featured what is called a people’s microphone, meaning everyone was invited to speak. Instead of using microphones, other people repeat back what the speaker says. The same format has been used during the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York.
After shouting in disagreement with Normyle, UMass senior Katelyn Golsby started speaking to the crowd while others continued to argue against Normyle’s points.
“I was in New York last weekend,” said Golsby. “You need to keep this movement strong, because it’s worth it and this is our lives.” Normyle was then soon invited to speak for himself using the people’s microphone.

“This whole entire organization, Occupy Wall Street … their ideas and their ideological standpoints are very, very extreme,” said Normyle in an interview.  “They’re calling for things like the cutting of military spending. They’re saying that corporate greed has led to all sorts of atrocities.”

But even with Normyle’s objections, students, professors and locals stepped forward to speak and to lead the crowd in chants during yesterday’s event. Among them was Shahram Azhar, a graduate student, who came to the United States from Pakistan two years ago.

“When I came to the U.S. I thought maybe this place was different,” said Azhar. “We’re from the third world, maybe these people have a better system. But I realized it doesn’t have to do with the fact that we’re underdeveloped. It has to do with the system as a whole.”
The system that Azhar referred to was capitalism – something that he feels is flawed. However, he said he thinks that changes to the system must come from first world workers, not the third world.

“I feel that these people, the ones who are on the streets protesting, are the beacon of hope for those of us in the third world as well,” said Azhar.

Many UMass students spoke to the crowd and led speeches by talking about what they felt were  issues with corporations, their personal experiences with steep student loans – among other financial difficulties – and the state of the economy.

UMass Junior Rachel Susko said that she thinks some people, even if they do everything they are supposed to do, end up falling “through the cracks.”

“My parents saved their whole lives, since they were like 30, all in retirement accounts, saved for my education, did everything that they were supposed to. Then my mom was supposed to retire and my dad got sick and we pretty much had no money. We did everything right and now we’re screwed,” said Susko.

The people who came out for the protest varied from veteran protesters to first-timers who just discovered the movement. UMass junior Emily Lachut said she had never heard about the movement before, and stopped to observe as she was walking by.

“I was curious,” Lachut said of why she stopped. She said she now thinks it is a good cause, and that organizing protests is a good way of getting a message out.

UMass junior Laurie Roberts explained how important she thinks it is for people to get involved in the movement, and said everything from “liking” the movement on Facebook to attending protests in major cities helps.

“One of the cool things about this movement is that it doesn’t matter what political ideology you have or where you stand on the socioeconomic scale,” said Roberts. “It’s just the fact that everybody’s getting screwed somehow, and even if you aren’t getting screwed, you know someone who’s getting screwed.”

UMass senior Ben Taylor said he was arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge in New York two weekends ago as a part of the Occupy Wall Street movement. “I’ve got massive student debt, job prospects are bleak. The economy is clearly designed to concentrate wealth at the top,” said Taylor, who is part of a loose coalition of people that work to organize the protests.

There will be another protest this Sunday at the Amherst Town Commons.

Steffi Porter can be reached at [email protected]. Katie Landeck can be reached at [email protected].


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