Occupy Northwestern plans for growth despite low turnout at general assembly meeting

Lauren Caruba

After Occupy Northwestern drew about 75 protesters to Eric Cantor’s speech last Friday, attendance dwindled to just nine for its first general assembly meeting Wednesday evening.

The meeting, advertised on Facebook to start at 5 p.m. at the Rock, was upstaged by an open mic reading of Walt Whitman’s poetry co-hosted by the Northwestern English department and Rainbow Alliance. Occupy NU organizers, unaware of the previously scheduled event, moved their meeting to the area in front of Harris Hall, but the meeting was attended mostly by Occupy NU’s core members.

Lauryn Flizeer, Occupy NU organizer and graduate student, referred to Wednesday’s meeting as a “mistake” and a “missed opportunity” to further mobilize the Occupy movement on NU’s campus.

At the meeting, members discussed their opinions of the Cantor protest as well as the group’s plans for moving forward. Members agreed that publicizing Occupy NU among students was a top priority, as was getting more students to actively participate in discussions and events.

The group has planned a trip to meet with Occupy Chicago members next Friday, Nov. 11, as a way to expose interested students to a larger, more established movement.

“It’s never too late to join the fight for justice, if people haven’t had the chance already, because it’s (Occupy Chicago) an hour away,” Flizeer said. “Occupy NU should give people an opportunity to get involved here in Evanston, on campus.”

Members also discussed organizing events featuring keynote speakers to educate NU students about the Occupy movement and possibly reach out to the Evanston community.

Weinberg senior Kristin Lawson said the Occupy movement is pertinent to NU students who will soon be entering a tough job market. Her worries about job prospects were intensified after observing the class of 2011 post graduation, she said.

“People who are already out of school and in the job market can’t find jobs, and then now we’re supposed to go out with these big Northwestern loans behind our backs and just hope that we’ll get hired,” Lawson said.

Occupy NU member and third-year graduate student Andrew Scarpelli said he is interested in the Occupy movement because of how much economic inequality exists in the United States. Too much priority is given to corporate institutions, he said.

“Everyone should fight for themselves, but then they’re going to give special treatment to banks, to the economic sector, big business? It’s upsetting,” Scarpelli said.

Medill freshman Leah Givhan attended the Cantor protests and helped promote Occupy NU’s first meeting through Facebook. She said she first became interested in the Occupy movement after following it in the news and attending rallies in Madison, Wis.

Givhan said she hopes the movement will gain momentum on campus because of the potential NU students have to make an impact on the world.

“This is a campus of intelligent, informed people,” Givhan said. “There’s a lot of people here that have the potential to go on and become leaders in many different aspects of life.”

Although the meeting was not as widely attended as anticipated, the group still made decisions regarding the future of Occupy NU, Flizeer said.

“We have a plan going forward,” Flizeer said. “We’re going to take a field trip down to Occupy Chicago, let people experience and be part of the movement at its heart here in Chicago.”