On-site report from “Occupy St. Louis” movement

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On-site report from “Occupy St. Louis” movement

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Occupy St. Louis protesters participated in a march on Oct. 14 in Downtown St. Louis. The occupation began in Kiener Plaza on Oct. 1 and has contiuned for approximately three weeks. The protest is a part of the national Occupy movement. Kristen Miano / Associate News Editor

St. Louis is under occupation. More specifically, the Occupy movement has been camping out in Kiener Plaza in Downtown St. Louis since Oct. 1. People of all ages and backgrounds have gathered to represent part of the perceived 99 percent of the population who feel that too much power has been given to the 1 percent of the population who they say control most of the nation’s wealth.

College students around the country have participated in the protests, including in St. Louis. A separate Occupy committee has been created for students to represent interests including things like loan debt and access to affordable higher education.

“After college, even with bachelor degrees, we’re going to have a hard time getting jobs we can live on,” sophomore Dyln Brewer said. “We can get minimum wage jobs, but we won’t be successful.”

In this spirit of inclusivity, the Occupy movement has spread to more than 200 cities in the United States and to several cities abroad. The initial movement started Sept. 17 with Occupy Wall Street, which took up residence in Liberty Square in Manhattan’s financial district in New York City.

One of Occupy Wall Street’s sister movements is Occupy St. Louis. They state on their website to stand in solidarity with those who “seek to expose the greed and avarice that has sold off the ‘American Dream’ in exchange for executive bonuses and political kickbacks.”

According to the movement’s Statement of Purpose, the protesters represent the unemployed, elderly foreclosed, indebted college students, and the future of children.

The protest is a leaderless demonstration that does not associate itself with any existing organization or political affiliation. While a major criticism of the movement has been their lack of a central issue, some of the primary goals presented by the Occupiers have been a need to fight back against the growing power of banks and corporations and their role in creating economic instability.

Occupy St. Louis has faced some police action with several arrests occurring on Oct. 6 after an eviction notice was issued by the police. Apart from a steady police presence in the Plaza, however, the St. Louis movement has been allowed to keep occupying Kiener Plaza for nearly three weeks..

Junior David Gaillardetz said he believes that it is important for students to pay attention to Occupy St. Louis because it gives them a chance to focus on issues outside of classes and exams.

“As college students, we have a responsibility to speak out for social and economic justice,” Gaillardetz said. “There are things greater than us going on. The poor are often overlooked and oppressed by those in power and we as students must break the cycle of apathy and speak out for a better society.”

A representative from the Student Committee stated that the group would like to see more students from Saint Louis University participating in the protest. There is a large Washington University presence already, and the Student Committee is separate from the occupiers in that they do not stay overnight in the Plaza.

Despite a lack of presence at the Occupy site, SLU students have been paying attention to the movement. The Political Round Table held a discussion to talk about the potential impact of the protest.

“It was an informal conversation to discuss some videos and articles we had seen,” Political Round Table President Priya Sirohi said. “We reached a consensus that it was something we didn’t want to see fade and that it was something that need to happen no matter where you stand politically.”

Sophomore Kevin Guszkowski said he feels Occupy is an important movement to get involved in, especially for college students.

“It’s a good thing to get involved in,” Guszkowski said. “It gives us a chance to promote activity in the community and get involved in politics some way.”

Not all students at SLU, however, feel the movement is an effective means of creating change. Sophomore Stephen Russell said he feels that Occupy makes some good points, but it potentially isolates some key voices.

“It’s kind of superfluous,” Russel said. “I don’t mean to invalidate the feelings, because the feelings are true, but the Occupation makes the message kind of inaccessible to certain people who have the same feeling, but can’t necessarily relate. Time will tell.”