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1.18.12 - The Boston Occupier - Issue 4

1.18.12 - The Boston Occupier - Issue 4

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Published by Daniel Schneider
The fourth edition of the Boston Occupier features coverage of the upcoming MBTA fare hikes/service cuts, Occupy's presence at the New Hampshire primary and a deconstruction of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
The fourth edition of the Boston Occupier features coverage of the upcoming MBTA fare hikes/service cuts, Occupy's presence at the New Hampshire primary and a deconstruction of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

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 www.bostonoccupier.comIssue No. 4 January 18th, 2012
FREE PRESS
By Dan Schneider
In late October, an article in USA Today caused a flurry of reports and re-reportsconcerning a daunting fact: the student-loan debt in the United States will soonreach over $1 trillion dollars. The article’sclaim was based on information gleanedfrom a close reading of The FinancialReport of the United States, an auditedreport of the federal government publishedby the Department of the Treasury. It isbacked up by estimates made by finaid.org,a popular financial aid website for upcominghigh school graduates, which has a featurecalled the Student Loan Debt Clock. Asof January 7, that clock was at $970 billionand growing. Just as these numbers were starting toroll through the mainstream media cycle, Andrew Ross, a professor of social andcultural analysis at New York University, was giving a speech at an open forum at60 Wall Street – a short walk from Occupy  Wall Street and Liberty Square. Thislecture’s title was a simple question, “IsStudent Debt A Form of Indenture?” Inoverwhelmingly deciding that the answer was “yes,” Ross and a group of dedicatedoccupiers formed a working group withinOWS to tackle the issue.The result was the Occupy Student DebtCampaign, which launched just beforeThanksgiving. The group has a single statedgoal: get 1 million people to pledge theirrefusal to pay their student loan debt.“We’re pushing the concept of refusalinto the public conversation,” Ross toldDollars & Sense. “We live in a culture that’shostile to the concept of refusal, where thesanctity of contracts is held to be invio-lable.” However, as Ross and the roughly 3,000 debtors who have signed the pledgesee it, the system has long been riggedagainst them. Student loan debt is notori-ously difficult to remove through declaringbankruptcy, causing interest to pile up forthose unable to immediately find jobs—orthose who do find jobs which don’t pay enough—right out of college.“Many of these ‘student’ debtors aregray-haired,” Ross said. As an educator atone of the most expensive universities inthe country, Ross annually sees thousandsof young people who put themselves intodebt they may never be able to pay off.“My salary depends on my students goinginto debt. I guess I’ve known that for a while, but I’ve chosen—like a lot of my colleagues—to ignore that fact, because itmakes us uncomfortable.”Not everyone is convinced that volun-tarily defaulting is the best way to solve theproblem. Kyle MacCarthy, who is a part of an unrelated group called Occupy StudentDebt and also worked with Krotala Filmson the documentary Default: The StudentLoan Documentary, says that defaultingon student loans “can pretty much destroy your life.”“It’ll ruin your credit, and in some statesyou can even lose your driver’s or profes-sional license.” MacCarthy is quick to admitthat the Occupy Student Debt Campaignhas successfully brought the conversationabout student loan debt back into thenational spotlight. He believes, however,that the group’s goals could be achievedin a better way, such as fighting to make iteasier for people to discharge student debtthrough bankruptcy.But this line of thinking seems to ignorethe urgency of the issue. The student loanindustry lobbied hard to shape the 2005Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention law in theirfavor, and it is certain that they wouldoppose most of the changes MacCarthy isadvocating. After all, lenders tend to profiteven more from someone defaulting onstudent loans than from someone payingthem off in full, given the lack of protectionand exorbitant amount of interest, finesand court fees that will be added onto theprincipal. We live in a time when student debt hasoutpaced the growth of credit card debt by over $100 billion. Among the two-thirds of Bachelor’s students who graduate with debt,the average size of their loans is just under$28,000 (not including interest). In thelifetime of a social movement, there needsto be a willingness to push the envelope, andtake drastic measures to make a statement.That’s how Johanna Clearfield seesit. Clearfield is an office manager fromBrooklyn who has been a part of the OSDCampaign, and currently holds $50,000 worth of debt (which originated from$20,000 in loans). “This is not a flash-in-the-pan issue. When did college turn intothis for-profit industry, rather than being acondition of our social contract?”Clearfield believes that a show of soli-darity is necessary in a situation like this.“It’s like a labor union—you can’t have oneperson saying working conditions need tobe improved. Everyone needs to make thatshow, together.”In addition to making these drasticchanges in the student loan industry,Clearfield says that the OSD Campaigncan also work towards another goal: makingcollege free for everyone. “It’s not a radicalconcept—in fact, City University of New  York actually used to be called ‘The Free Academy.’ This is about re-establishing theidea that, in a democracy, everyone deservesto have an education, regardless of one’sability to pay.”For more information about thecampaign, visit occupystudentdebtcam-paign.orgSources: Occupy Student DebtCampaign (occupystudentdebtcampaign.org); ”Citizen’s Guide to the 2011 FinancialReport of the United States Government,”Department of Treasury, December 2011(fms.treas.gov); The SmartStudent Guideto Financial Aid, January 2012 (finaid.org);Dennis Cauchon, “Student loans headed for$1 trillion this year,” USA Today, October2011; ”Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention andConsumer Protection Act of 2005,” the112th United States Congress, October2005 (opencongress.org); “Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit,”Federal Reserve Bank of New York,November 2011 (data.newyorkfed.org).
Free Charlie!
Occupy Activists Take on the MBTA
National:
Occupying the American Economics Association- Page 4
Local/Regional:
Occupy Unites Groups inthe Bay State- Page 2
Opinion:
What is ALEC?- Page 6
Brian Kwoba at the Occupy Boston Community Gathering dedicated to explore the legacy o Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. atArlington St. Church, Boston, MA. On Martin Luther King day, Monday, Jan 16, 2012. (Photo: ess Schean/ Activestills.org)
By Doug Enaa Greene
On January 3, the MBTA unveiled plansto institute major service-cuts and fare-hikes.On January 10th, just a week after thisannouncement, more than twenty peoplemet in Somerville to begin organizing againstthe proposed changes.“The T cuts are, in effect, a tax on those who can least afford to pay it: workers,seniors, and students in our city,” saidSomerville resident Joe Ramsey. “Publictransportation should be a public right. The1% needs people to get to work or school sothey can run their companies. They shouldpay the travel costs.” Many in the audienceagreed. It was the first meeting of an initiativenow calling itself “Occupy the T.”Participants in this first meeting of “Occupy the T” included members of theMBTA Riders Union and members of theService Employees International Union, localhigh school students, Occupy Boston andOccupy Somerville. According to the January 3rdannouncement on its website, the MBTA iscurrently considering two different scenariosof service-cuts and fare-increases. Under thefirst scenario, there would be cuts to busservice, combined with a 43% overall increasein fares. For Senior Citizens who dependupon the RIDE, the price would increasefrom $2.00 to $4.50. Fees at T parking lots would increase by 28%.Under the MBTA’s second scenario,overall fare increases would go up by 35%,but there would be far more extensive cuts tobus service. According to the Department of Transportation, at least six bus routes in thecommunity would face cuts or be eliminated. Among the bus lines affected in Somerville would be routes 80, 85, 90, 92, 95, and96. Other service cuts are also plannedthroughout the Greater Boston area.In addition, costs for students’ and senior’s’monthly passes would increase under bothproposals. The MBTA would raise pass pricesfor students and seniors to $40 under scenario1 and $39 under scenario 2. Currently they are under $20. Both proposals would alsoeliminate weekend service on Green Line Ebranch, the Mattapan high speed line and thecommuter rail. A typical T-rider could expect annual trans-portation costs to go up by several hundreddollars. Many will be forced to walk longdistances or rely on costly and air-pollutingautomobiles. The MBTA itself predicts thateither of the two proposed plans would havea significant negative impact on pollutionand air quality in Boston. According to its announcement, the MBTA expects to implement one of the two plans on July 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year.The MBTA’s proposed fare increases andservice cuts are in response to a projectedbudget deficit of $161 million for the comingfiscal year. At the “Occupy the T” meeting, Jeremy Thompson of Mass United explainedthat funding for the T comes largely fromsales taxes and state subsidies. Only 30%of funding comes from fares. Meanwhile,debt servicing comprises slightly more than25% of the T’s annual operating budget.
OccupyingStudent Debt
How OWS Is Saying “No” to $1rillion in Debt
Continued on Page 2
Cartoon:
“NDAA” by Kip Lyall- Page 6
Also:
Subscribing to the BostonOccupier- Page 7
 
Page 2
 Jan. 18th, 2012
LOCAL / REGIONAL
bostonoccupier.com | The Boston Occupier - Free Press As Thompson outlined, the share of the T’s budgetcontributed by fare payments is only slightly greater thanthe share that goes to paying interest to private lenders.“When you pay your T fare,” Thompson said, “you arepaying for the T’s debt to the banks.”The MBTA’s debt to the banks can be traced to the year2000. Prior to this date, the state of Massachusetts fundedthe T directly. However, in 2000, the Enabling Act, alsoknown as Forward Funding, ceased direct and full publicfunding for the T. Henceforth, the state contributed only a fixed percentage of state sales tax (20%) to the MBTA. A decrease in sales tax revenues now results directly ina decrease in funding to the MBTA. At the same time,the state of Massachusetts also transferred $3.8 billionof its debt-load -- most of which stemmed from Big Digrelated expenses -- onto the MBTA as part of ForwardFunding. Deprived of guaranteed public funding andpinched within the new financial structure, the managersof the MBTA took loans from private investment banksand engaged in risky “gambling” practices involvinginterest rate swaps. Then the recession hit, resulting indiminished sales tax subsidies for the T.The result of these complex transactions and dimin-ished state funding has been that the MBTA currently finds itself indebted to UBS Bank for $9 million, MorganStanley for $182,000, JP Morgan Chase for $4.4 million,and Deutsche Bank for $8.6 million. Each of these banks was the recipient of federal bailout money in 2007-8. After outlining the context of the MBTA’sannouncement, the “Occupy the T” meeting brokeinto smaller groups to discuss ways to fight the cutsand fare increases. Attendees stressed the importance of rejecting the state’s claim that there is no alternative tothe two proposed regimes of cuts and fare hikes. Insteadof deciding between the MBTA’s two proposed plans,“Occupy the T” hopes to expose the role of for-profitfinancial institutions in creating and perpetuating theMBTA’s budget crisis. Several present argued that thebanks should cancel the T’s debt and state fund the Tdirectly by raising taxes on corporations and the richest1% of state residents.Proposed actions included mass leafleting at T-stops,outreach on the bus lines slated for reduction or elimi-nation, outreach to MBTA workers, coordination withexisting community groups, and a possible fare strike.There was concern that the MBTA might try to play different communities against one another by offering toretain service in one area at the expense of cuts elsewhere.In response, participants in the meeting argued for theneed to “unite the many against the few.” A committee was formed to produce a newsletter to help spread the word and build the cause.The day after this first meeting of “Occupy the T”,there was a follow-up discussion at Occupy Somerville’sGeneral Assembly. Another meeting is planned withthe T-Riders Union later in the week. Supporters can join the the group on Facebook at “Occupy the T” or“Against the T Cuts.” Meeting organizers have called forthose who oppose the MBTA plans to show up en masseat the T’s upcoming open community meetings.This would not be the first time that MBTA fareincreases have been met with broadly based and creativeprotest. In 1949, fare hikes provoked a popular song whose lyrics tell of a man named Charlie who is forevertrapped on Boston’s subway system because he didn’thave the money to pay the exit fare. In 2004, this figureof popular protest was co-opted into the MBTA itself, when then Republican Governor Mitt Romney dubbedthe new electronic T-passes “Charlie Cards.” At the“Occupy the T” meeting, Joe Ramsey spoke of the needto reclaim Charlie for the 99% and suggested organizingaround the slogan “Free Charlie.” This slogan calls forfreeing T-riders from fare hikes but goes further, callingfor free public transportation and freeing the T from itscrushing debt – something that the state and the 1%insist is impossible. In response to the state’s claim thatthere is no alternative, Ramsey argued for demanding theimpossible.
Continued:Free Charlie!
The Socialist Caucus
by Doug Enaa Greene
 At Occupy Boston, the Socialist Caucus has come together tobuild an anti-capitalist network within the movement. For membersof the Socialist Caucus, the key challenge when confronting oursociety is not corporate person-hood, the Federal Reserve, campaignfinancing, or political corruption. Their challenge is confrontingcapitalism, itself.Caucus member Jay Jubilee explains that capitalism is “a systemdesigned for the endless accumulation of profit, a system thatrenders all other human and planetary needs external to that onepredatory, virus-drive.” As he put it, “This sick system must go.”The alternative, Jay said, is “genuine people’s power” in whichthe 99% manages their own work democratically in the interestsof all. A common criticism heard on the political left is, “why can’t thedifferent socialist groups work together?” Last October, Boston-areasocialists formed the Caucus in order to reverse this long standingfragmentation and create a forum in which socialists holdingdifferent perspectives can hold discussions and coordinate activities with one another. The group’s mission statement was adopted inNovember, explains that “members of the Occupy Boston SocialistCaucus believe that capitalism is the problem, that revolutionary change is necessary, and that socialism is the solution.”Members of the Socialist Caucus hold widely differing viewpointsand even strong disagreements on the construction of socialism,revolution, and methods of mass work and organizing. Somemembers hold positive views on socialist experiments in the SovietUnion while others are more negative. Yet the Caucus is primarily action-oriented. Evan Sarmiento declares, “we’re here to get some work done in Occupy Boston and build some unity.” And that is just what they did on December 12 by organizinga solidarity march to protest Occupy Boston’s expulsion fromDewey Square (and in solidarity with a general strike on the Westcoast which shut down ports in Oakland, California and Portland,Oregon).The group also declares itself to be free of ties to any majorpolitical party. On December 18, the Socialist Caucus also intro-duced a resolution to the General Assembly for Occupy Boston todeclare independence from the Democrat and Republican Parties.This resolution was ultimately blocked at the G.A because there was a fear of preemptively alienating supporters of these two parties who are not involved in the movement.Members have also been involved in many working groups.Socialists in the Howard Zinn Memorial Lecture Series haveinvited radical academics, such as Noam Chomsky, Fred Magdoff and Bruno Bosteels, to give talks at Occupy Boston. Socialists havealso been active in Peace Action and the Ideas Working Group.The Socialist Caucus is continuing to hold meetings and todiscuss the current state of the Occupy movement. On January 8,the Caucus discussed the May 1st General Strike which had beenapproved by the Occupy Boston General Assembly the previousday. In line with the General Assembly endorsement, the Caucuseagerly debated how to build broad working class participation inthis coming Spring actions.
The Socialist Caucus at Occupy Boston can be found on facebook.
Building Connections Across the Bay State
by Ian Cornelius and Julie Orlemanski
On Saturday, January 7, members of at least fifteenMassachusetts branches of the Occupy movement convenedat Encuentro 5, a community space in Boston’s Chinatown.The group met to discuss future statewide actions, sharecommon concerns and to plan for a General Assembly of Occupy groups from across Massachusetts.Over fifty people were present at Saturday’s meeting.Occupy groups in attendance included Ocupemos el Barrio,Occupy Acton, Allston-Brighton, Brockton, Brookline, Jamaica Plain, Natick, Needham, Newton, North Attleboro,Quincy, Salem, Somerville, Weymouth, and Woburn. Aboutfifteen activists from Occupy Boston also attended, thoughall in the capacity of individual participants, not as desig-nated representatives of Occupy Boston. Attendees regrettedthe absence of Occupy the Hood Boston: the Mass Occupy meeting conflicted with a town hall meeting held the Dudley Library, to rally against the state’s new “3 Strikes” sentencinglaw. (Many of these occupations were profiled in issue threeof this newspaper: see the article “From the Burbs to el Barrio:Occupy beyond Dewey.”)The meeting began with a general discussion about “the 1%,the 99%, and the movement”. Bryan Koulouris, of Occupy Quincy and Socialist Alternative, started the conversation by encouraging Mass Occupy “to look to the West Coast forinspiration,” noting the port shutdown on December 12 andthe upcoming Day of Action for Education on March 1.Many more perspectives followed. Betsy Boggia, of Occupy Natick, suggested the power of having town councils passresolutions. “If each town passes a non-binding resolutionagainst corporate personhood,” she said, “that’s going tomove up to the state level and then the national level.”Genevieve Morse, of the International Women’s Day Committee, Socialist Alternative, and the MassachusettsTeachers Association, spoke about how “the 1% is looking tosmash public education and public services.” She urged thosein attendance to “defend and extend” these services instead.The most galvanizing issue was the MBTA’s recently announced plans to hike fares and cut services. Proposedchanges would raise fares by as much as 43%, end weekendcommuter rail service, slash bus routes, and reduce discountsoffered to seniors and students. (For more on this issue, see“Free Charlie” on page 1.) Attendees agreed to hold a second planning meeting inlate January. They also set details for a state-wide General Assembly: it will be held on February 18th, at the BostonTeachers Union’s hall, a space that can hold morethan a thousand people.
Looking Ahead
“There is a lot of work to be done before theFebruary General Assembly,” says Tim Larkin, aparticipant in Occupy Boston, member of Socialist Alternative, and one of the people planning the state- wide GA. In upcoming weeks, participants will collectideas and feedback from their respective occupations,reach out to other occupations, and begin discussingthe format of Mass Occupy’s General Assembly.Regarding the GA’s format, Larkin said he hopesMass Occupy will learn from the experience of otheroccupations and develop a process of its own. “TheGA process should enable discussion to stay focusedon action proposals and relevant issues,” he said,“and reduce the chances of stalled conversation and groupparalysis.” Jorge Alvarez, a participant in Occupy Boston’s Facilitation Working Group, said he liked what he saw at the January 7thmeeting, although he was only able to attend the first half.“The facilitation was unobtrusive and that’s always helpful,”he said. Alvarez added that he also liked how facilitators usedtime cards to show individual speakers when to wrap up.“I’m going to suggest that to [Occupy Boston’s] Facilitation Working Group”, he said.On the other hand, Alvarez hopes that Mass Occupy  will do more to announce and explain their initiative inupcoming weeks. He said that many participants in Occupy Boston only learned of Mass Occupy “at the eleventh hour.” As a result, there was a lot of “misinformation,” and concernabout co-optation and lack of transparency. “They could doa much better job at educating the public and the Occupy Boston community,” said Alvarez.Indeed, outreach to Occupy Boston is one of MassOccupy’s priorities in upcoming weeks, according to TimLarkin. “Occupy Boston is not only the first Occupy inNew England; it is also the one that all the other sites inNew England continue to look to,” said Larkin. At the sametime, Larkin said that it can sometimes be difficult to makeannouncements and proposals at Occupy Boston’s General Assemblies. Although the General Assemblies are regularly scheduled and their locations are well publicized, theirformat can be unpredictable. If someone makes a trip intodowntown Boston to make a specific announcement, butthen is not able to deliver it, the experience can be frustrating,Larkin explained.
Lines of Communication
 As important as Occupy Boston is, it is just one of an unknown number of Occupy groups in the state of Massachusetts. Convening a statewide General Assembly willmean reaching out to the occupations not yet present at MassOccupy’s January 7th meeting. As participants in Occupy Boston’s InterOccupy Communications (OBIO) workinggroup can attest, establishing these lines of communicationbrings its own challenges.On January 13th, before a regular OBIO meeting, FarhadEbrahimi explained the group’s work in this way: “We aimto set up the informational infrastructure that will enableindividuals and working groups from different Occupy sitesto talk to one another. It’s less about content than aboutbuilding connections.” Ebrahimi stressed that OBIO doesnot broadcast announcements on behalf of other groups,but they can help these other groups get in touch with oneanother.During the OBIO meeting, Wayne Archer-Clark, of Occupy Newton, urged that “InterOccupy and MassOccupy should be working together.” Indeed, it seems thatboth groups would stand to benefit from this exchange. The January 7th Mass Occupy meeting convened activists fromoccupations where OBIO has not yet established personalcontacts. Moreover, by providing a regional forum dedi-cated to discussion of politics, actions, and the future of theOccupy movement, Mass Occupy may free OBIO fromexpectations that the working group will create that forumitself. Instead, OBIO will be able to focus on its core mission:laying lines of communication within this new and dynamicsocial movement.The Occupy movement’s ever-changing nature is itself oneof the reasons to organize a state-wide General Assembly,according to Larkin. “We can’t expect the Occupy movementto remain at its present level,” Larkin explains. “It will eithergrow or shrink. For working people, unity is our strength. Weneed to overcome the things that are keeping us divided andcome together.”
Event Spotlight:
Occupy Boston Student Summit
By Zack Nestel-Patt,
member of Occupy Boston Students 
The students of Occupy Boston have resolved to holda Summit on
Saturday, February 11th
from 12-7pm(location TBD) for the student community in Bostonto come together and discuss social, political, economic,and strategic, organizational and tactical issues pertinentto the Occupy Boston Student population.By addressing the issues that students must deal withthe most (student debt and educational inequality) anddiscussing how we as students will deal with those issuesby solidifying our strategy, organization, and tactics, itis our hope that we can grow the participation of thestudent body and develop a powerful political group.The proposed schedule for the day begins with caucusmeetings for traditionally marginalized groups (women,people of color, and LGBT) as well as a discussionabout privilege and masculinity. This is followed by a discussion of issues relating to student debt andeducation inequality. The summit will also include ateach-in on the history of student activist movementsfollowed by a discussion about the strategy, organi-zation, and tactics of the student Occupy group. Afterthe summit has ended, there will be a concert and danceto help unwind. We encourage all students to participateand to bring as many friends as they can.
 
Page 3
 Jan. 18th, 2012
bostonoccupier.com | The Boston Occupier - Free Press | LOCAL/REGIONAL
Occupy Boston Rings in theNew Year
By Julie Orlemanskiand Joshua Sager
It was the last afternoon of 2011. A small crowd had gatheredin front of the Community Church of Boston, on the northside of Copley Square. Volunteerscarrying trays of buttons and fliersengaged passers-by on the busy sidewalk, while other activistsstood talking and smoking ciga-rettes in the mild chill. Overhead,the church’s third-story window opened. Cheers broke out as alarge homemade banner unfurled,displaying the message: “Occupy Boston: Another world is possible!”The banner and the tray-toting volunteers were part of Occupy Boston’s actions coin-ciding with the city’s “First Night” New  Year’s celebration. First Night’s parade andsponsored events were expected to draw almost a million people to the Hub. For weeks, Occupy Boston working groups hadbeen preparing for the occasion.The Info Tent Working Group, forinstance, had printed thousands of copiesof a leaflet introducing and telling the story of Occupy Boston. They had also orderedfive thousand “Occupy Boston” buttons fordistribution. The pamphlets and buttons were loaded into homemade carriers, whichvolunteers donned before heading into thecrowd to share information and cheer. KevinMaley, a 27-year-old sustainability associatefrom South Boston who had helped organizethe action, said he was pleased. “We really reached a lot of people today,” he said.One of the items passed out by Info Tentvolunteers were swatches of cloth that hadbeen screen-printed with an image of tentsat Dewey Square. These were the creationsof one of Occupy Boston’s newest workinggroups, the Screen Print Guild. Inside theCommunity Church, which served as theday’s central meeting place, their effortscontinued. Volunteers were printing logosonto clothing, accessories, andmementos for occupiers and New  Year’s revelers. Everything was free forthe taking.The working group members werealso teaching people how to decoratetheir clothing themselves, walkingthem through the steps of screenprinting. One of the organizers, Jay Kelly, a native of Brockton, Mass. who had helped run the “Signs” Tentat Dewey Square, said he was happy  with the group’s first major action.“We’re planning to collaborate withother working groups,” he said.“We’re looking for new members andnew ideas for actions.” By the end of the night, dozens of shirts, hoodies,banners, and flags were hanging on clothes-lines, drying and awaiting new homes.Occupy Boston’s medics also helped out with the First Night action. Charlotte Badler,a nurse and member of the Medical WorkingGroup, was busy affixing labels to a stack of chemical hand-warmers. “We have about totwo hundred to give away,” she estimatedbefore heading out to distribute them amongthe crowds watching the parade.One of the highlights of the night came alittle after 8 pm. Copley Square was festiveand surreal: ice sculptures glowed, a groupof Hari Krishnas drummed and danced, andhundreds of “First Night” revelers waitedin anticipation of the night’s festivities.Suddenly, high on the side of an officebuilding across from the square on Boylston,“99%” flashed into view. Then the video,projected by the Occupy Boston Women’sCaucus, directed the protesters below in aseries of chants. “We are the 99%!” “Banksgot bailed out, we got sold out!” At one point, the names of dozens of occupations around the world began toappear, accelerating to a blur. Occupiers triedto call out the names as they raced by, buttheir efforts dissolved into cheers. The list of occupations served as a powerful emblem of how many people the Occupy movement hadreached in its first few months and of what itmight accomplish in the new year.The day included plenty more: a vigil andprocession by the Peace Action WorkingGroup; occupiers marching in the FirstNight parade; a Meet & Greet Open Houseat the Community Church; a roving mobileprojector that threw colorful videos aboutthe Occupy movement onto buildings indifferent parts of the city, and more. Thenumber and diversity of actions wouldseem to indicate the ongoing vitality andenergy of Occupy Boston, a passion whichpromises to power the movement into 2012.
The Lil’estProtest:
Occupy Boston’s Tiny Tent Task Force
By Dan Schneider
Most people assumed that once Occupy Boston was evicted from Dewey Square,their tents – the most visible tool of theirpublic protest – would vanish. Within themovement, however, a group has formed tomake sure that this doesn’t happen – albeiton a much smaller scale.The Tiny Tents Task Force is a group withinOccupy Boston with a single, simple course of action: craft as many miniature tents as possibleand place them around the city for people to find.Mallory Biggins, a 24 year old art therapy studentat Lesley University, was among the group thatcame up with the plan, which started whensomeone half-jokingly proposed putting mini‘99%’ tents in South Station’s Christmas display.The idea only started to pick up steam after theDecember 10th raid which ended the move-ment’s 70-day long occupation of Dewey Square.“I proposed that we do this to remind people that we’re still here,” Biggins said, “I have a theory thatall of the energy (Occupy Boston) was puttinginto ‘camp drama has shifted and allowed us toexplode creatively.”Biggins’s theory has proved to be correct, thusfar. The first Tiny Tents event drew scores of people to Enucentro 5 in Chinatown. The crowd was a mixed bag of both seasoned occupiersand first-time attendees, including a number of children (and their parents) who were delighted tohave time to snack, color, and play with hundredsof small dwellings.Some might wonder what a supposed radicalprotest movement is doing playing with smelly markers and glue sticks, or how hiding these tiny tents will raise awareness of income inequality and the other issues Occupy Boston has takenup. As a student in art therapy, Biggins says shehas seen how the act of making art is helpful asa form of self-expression that can bring peopletogether to create. In addition, as a form of protest, “Miniatures are very non-threatening. A loud march with hundreds of people can createthis ‘us vs. them’ mentality. It’s a very childish artform that makes you think about the logic andrules of space.”She added, “And even if you disagree with ourmessage, can you really get mad at a tiny tent thatsays ‘You Deserve a Better World?’”The main online portal for The Tiny TentsTask Force, tinytents.tumblr.com, shows thetents hidden in dozens of places around Boston:on the grass at Dewey Square, on top of thedoorframe at Sweetwater Tavern, in the library of Harvard Medical School and in the bucket of a ticket machine for the T. The tents also madean appearance on the Christmas tree of City Life/Vida Urbana, a community housing and tenant’srights group in Jamaica Plain. Those tents weremade out of fabric and framed by mutilated Bank of America debit cards A number of tents were also placed inside if a small grass planter next to a Bank of Americaduring a December march. Police arrived onthe scene to ‘evict’ the tiny tent city. In a videocaptured during the confrontation, a Bostonpolice officer tells the occupiers that they’relittering, and an unknown protester can be heardsaying “You’re calling our artwork trash, I takeoffense to that!” in response.Since its inception, this idea has quickly spreadto other Occupy groups. As of New Year’s, ‘Tiny Tents’ groups have sprouted up in locations thatrange from Terre Haute, Indiana to Melbourne, Australia. Photos have also been sent in from indi-viduals in Salem, Mass; Des Moines, Iowa; andNewton, Illinois (where the tiny tent featured apicture of Mr. Van Driessenn from Beavis andButt Head saying ’Hippies need love too! Occupy Newton, IL’).In the future, the group will be hosting eventsaround Boston area, both at Encuentro 5 andat Mobius art experimental gallery in CentralSquare. The event at Mobius will be hosted by The Institute For Infinitely Small Things, aBoston-based art collective. Forest Purnell, a 21year old from Vermont who serves as a ‘researchassistant’ with the Institute, says that the goalsof the Institute and Occupy Boston (and, morespecifically, the Tiny Tents Task Force) aresimilar in that, “Broadly, [Occupy Boston] is likepolitical art; it’s about creating situations out of everyday life that break our patterns and make usthink.” Although the Institute has gone so far as toorganize a march for Occupy Boston in October,its role with regard to the Tiny Test Task Forcehas been, in Purnell’s words, “mainly curatorial”,providing venue for the Task Force’s January exhibition. Purnell personally has provided otherlogistical support, such as “setting up the Task Force’s website and creating the instructions forTent construction.”Mallory Biggins hopes that the idea continuesto catch on and grow, as a way of spreading theOccupy Movement’s message through the powerof art and humor. In order to capture the attentionof the 1%, she suggested hiding the tents in coatpockets at Barney’s, or peaking around the cornerof a display in the window of Saks Fifth Avenue.“This movement can be divisive to some people,”Biggins explained, “but (Tiny Tents) can’t be.”“Sometimes making people laugh can be a lotstronger than making them mad.”
Occupier Prole:Jon Noble
By Mason Weiser
Being politically conscious isn’teasy. With most people too apatheticto vote, trying to start a conversationabout economic injusticeis even harder.“People don’t like bad news like layoffsand bad government spending and whatnot. They want to avoid it,” JonNoble, a member of Occupy Worcester,told me. The Occupy movement hasbeen a boon to the kind of people whotry to start conversations: there’s alwayssomeone willing to talk. Moreover, inbigger occupations like Boston’s, there isa pool of hundreds ready to get out in thestreet at a moment’s notice.Smaller occupations don’t have thatluxury. At Occupy Worcester, averageGA attendance is about 20. Accordingly,their direct actions tend to be pretty small. Hundreds of people marching with flags and signs is formidable andempowering, but if you only have adozen or so people, you can’t help butfeel a bit silly.Luckily for Occupy Worcester, JonNoble is no stranger to feeling a bit silly. Jon is the kind of guy who got madefun of in high school a lot. Usually, he wears a battered blazer and either a comicbook-themed T-shirt or a button up witha bowtie. He works as a busboy at theSole Proprietor, a seafood restaurant in Worcester. He has a tradition of givingtacky dollar store curios to all his friendson his birthday.He may be exactly the kind of person Worcester’s small occupation needs tosurvive. Jon was introduced to the movementthrough a march with Occupy the Hoodin Boston, which may be why he’s soenamored with direct actions. “I saw a lotof concerned people, and it really reso-nated with me. Bad things are happeningbecause people don’t care. I see Occupy as a way of bringing them into the light,”he said. Around the time the furor over theNational Defense Authorization Act wasat its peak, Jon saw the culmination of a plan he had been brewing for a while.He wrangled a cardboard coffin intothe back of his parents’ car, stopped at Walgreen’s to pick up plastic flowersand a role of duct tape, and made it to Worcester common only fifteen minuteslate.The purpose of all this was to march with other occupiers to the WorcesterStatehouse and then hold a mock funeral for the Bill of Rights. People hadpromised to be there at ten A.M. Upuntil eleven A.M., Jon’s only company as he struggled to erect the prop coffin were a pair of curious homeless folks. Ateleven-thirty, there were as many occu-piers as there were going to be: seven.“Apparently someone on Facebook suggested postponing the action for a week and a few people thought it wasagreed on,” Jon said. After walking in silence through one of the first cold snaps of the year, drawingquestioning glances from pedestriansthe whole way, Jon and the other pall-bearers set the coffin down right in frontof the Worcester Statehouse. Jon gave athoughtful if overwrought eulogy, andinvited the assembled occupiers to say their piece. The display was unequivo-cally ridiculous: a handful of chilly protesters standing among the withereddecorative plants, tossing plastic roses thecolor of cheap lipstick down on a card-board coffin with “liberty” written on theside in duct tape, a few of them mutteringhalfhearted words of mourning. Onesolitary police cruiser looked on, drivenby a patrolman the occupiers calledOfficer Bob, who everyone seemed toactually like. A lot has been made out of how silly theOccupy movement can sometimes look to outsiders, with its mustachioed masksand twinkling hand signals. You have tobe a silly off to react to the world as it istoday with anything other than cynicism. As for Jon, the low turnout didn’t slow him down at all. He’s planning anotheraction: “We’re calling it the community group call in: we’re going to get peopletogether, talk about important issues,and then call our representatives. Somany people don’t care that people inelected office get away with murder. I want people to know that they can dosomething.” A few weeks after the first attempt atthe funeral, Jon tried again. About threetimes as many people showed up.
Te frst event hosted by the iny ents ask orce, in late December.(Photo: Mallory Biggins)Occupy Boston rang in the new year with demonstrations during Boston’s “First Night”events. (Photo: Julie Stone)Noble, caricaturing a Fox News anchor beore arally in December.

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