In solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement, where thousands are protesting economic exploitation, SUNY students left class to rally in the quad on Wednesday.
“Corporations influence government to a point where people have no say,” said Alex Lykins, co-president of Students for Global Change and the organizer of the protest at Oswego State.
Occupy Wall Street began three weeks ago, when protesters began camping out at a park in Manhattan to protest, among other issues, the amount of control corporations have over the federal government, uneven distribution of wealth and high unemployment rates.
A grassroots movement is one that begins with the common people, political professor Lisa Glidden said.
“A movement that is organized ‘from below,’ meaning that it’s regular people, not politicians,’ who are part of the movement,” Glidden said.
Meanwhile, the Oswego State rally was really a three-prong protest, not only to support Occupy Wall Street, but also to protest SUNY tuition hikes and budget cuts.
Lykins said that the protest, which over 40 people attended, was organized in two hours. They chanted slogans such as “Come one, come all, corporations have got to fall,” and “Hey, hey, ho, ho tuition hikes have got to go.”
SUNY determined over the summer that tuition could be increased by $300 dollars every year for five years and there will be a $300 million cut to SUNY’s budget this year.
One of the issues that the protest aimed to address was mounting student debt.
A sheet of paper was passed around where students were asked to write down the amount they will owe once they graduate. The numbers were then added up and announced.
“It effects every student very deeply,” Lykins said.
Oswego State joins a list of other colleges around the United States, which are holding similar protests. Other SUNY schools like Albany, Binghamton and Buffalo have joined the organization Occupy Colleges, which was created by a group of students and alumni from colleges in California to show solidarity with Occupy Wall Street protesters.
“There’s no way to fight things without people power,” protest attendee Marshall Hennis said. “There’s no way to fight money without just throwing up your hands and saying, I’m not taking your money.”
Maureen Curtin, an English professor who serves as the vice president of Oswego’s United University Professionals and is a founding member of solidarity committee of central New York, attended the protest.
“The message is fairly simple; we are the 99 percent and we can’t afford to let ourselves be divided anymore by the one percent,” Curtin said.
“The reason students are doing this is because we’re riddled with student debt and lack of opportunity after college,” Occupy Colleges spokesperson Natalia Abrams said. “No student is part of the one percent. None of us have all the money in this country.”
Since its formation Sunday night, Occupy Colleges has grown to 75 colleges and universities.
“We’re actually the numbers,” English department chair Bennet Schaber said. “We have all the power. We’re like the lion, they’re like the ant. We are the many and they are the few, and we have to demonstrate that every single day.”
Curtin met with Occupy Syracuse protesters Tuesday night at Perseverance Park where they have been camped out since Sunday night. Occupy Syracuse is also an outshoot of the Occupy Wall Street protests.
“No one really organized this, it’s been national on Facebook and on Twitter and the news that this is happening,” Schaber said.
Schaber and Curtin agree that social media is playing a crucial role in grassroots movements.
“Social media has enabled us to spread the word,” Curtin said.
Psychology professor and faculty adviser for Students for Global Change Rebecca Burch wants students on campus to be more active in what is happening to them.
“I would like to see more students outraged,” Burch said.
Additional reporting by Avery Galek