Occupy Chicago member rekindles Northwestern movement via teach-in

Lauren Caruba

The Occupy movement was revived at Northwestern on Wednesday evening with a teach-in by a member of Occupy Chicago about the upcoming NATO and G-8 summits.

Eric Ruder, a writer for the newspaper Socialist Worker for more than 10 years, led Occupy Northwestern’s “A Short and Irreverent History of NATO and the G-8” from 7 to 9 p.m. in Fisk Hall. The meeting drew about 25 people from the NU and Evanston community.

Occupy NU held the teach-in to educate people about the international organizations NATO and G-8, which both plan to hold conferences in Chicago this May.

NATO is a 28-country military alliance formed in 1949 to improve global defense and security. G-8, formally known as the Group of Eight, was founded in 1975 to provide a forum for the governments of the world’s major economies.

“These are two institutions, given their global reach, that really do touch on everything,” Ruder said.

During the first portion of the meeting, Ruder elaborated on the histories of NATO and the G-8 through the lens of the Occupy movement. Ruder emphasized how both contributed to the current plight of the global economy as well as to social and political uprisings worldwide. After his speech, Ruder opened the room up to questions and discussions among the attendees.

Ruder said the history and issues regarding NATO and the G-8 are relevant to NU students, as he said the University itself is “an institution of the global 1 percent.” However, he added many students may still identify with Occupy ideologies.

“These issues speak to students everywhere and they speak to people everywhere,” Ruder said.

NU French Prof. Scott Hiley introduced Ruder to the group. In his opening comments, Hiley highlighted social and political turmoil across the United States and in countries such as Greece, Israel and Argentina as being indicative of the world’s desire for “radical change.” The Occupy movement represents a call for a public and democratic political culture, he said.

Hiley participated in the Occupy Chicago movement during October and November, attending both attempts to “occupy” Grant Park. He said college campuses such as NU are ideal for finding solutions to the nation’s social and economic problems.

“We have the leisure and the resources and the training and the imperative to devote ourselves to critical thought,” Hiley said. “Everybody should be involved in discussion, debate and addressing the pressing issues of the day in a serious manner.”

The teach-in marks Occupy NU’s second major event of Winter Quarter. Last month the group hosted a screening of “Default: The Student Loan Documentary” in Harris Hall. Last quarter, Occupy NU picketed at the speaking appearance of Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on campus and marched through the Arch to protest police involvement in other Occupy movements.

Occupy NU member Mauricio Maluff Masi, a Weinberg junior, said the teach-in represents the group’s efforts to reach beyond a small core membership of about six people who meet every Tuesday in Kresge Hall and overcome the limitations winter puts on the organization of larger events on campus.

Masi said until the group increases its membership, Occupy NU will focus on bringing more awareness to social issues on campus through small, educational events.

“With a smaller group there’s not really much we can do,” Masi said. “If we had a larger turnout we’d be able to do those large, action-oriented events.”

Weinberg sophomore Isabel Rodriguez-Vega, who attended the teach-in, said she had never been to an Occupy event before. Being from Oakland, Calif., where the Occupy protests have resulted in hundreds of arrests,, has made her want to learn more about the movement, she said.

“I thought it would be interesting to become more educated about NATO and G-8 with the summit coming up,” Rodriguez-Vega added. “Lots of people want to protest there.”

Occupy members said they hope warmer weather will encourage more people to participate in Occupy activities.

“We’re poised to see a resurgence of the Occupy movement in the springtime,” said Occupy NU member Lauryn Flizeer, a NU graduate student.

Ruder said Occupy Chicago is planning on peacefully protesting the NATO and G-8 summits, which will be held in Chicago from May 19 to May 21. Members of Occupy Chicago will also collaborate with other organizations at a People’s Summit, to take place at the Occupy Chicago headquarters on May 12 and May 13, Ruder said.

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