New Round for College Occupiers

For the college Occupy movement, the past couple of months have been largely quiet – the attention-grabbing marches and rallies have fizzled, encampments have closed, and there has been no pepper-spraying or baton-swinging to speak of.

But students say quietness does not equal dormancy, and today they’ll be out to prove it in a national “Day of Action.”

“Students are still working, but just because they haven’t seen all of us out in the streets every day, they think that it’s over,” said Caitlin MacLaren, a New York University student and organizer at Occupy Education, a network of occupations and student and faculty groups that are coordinating the Day of Action. “People will see that it’s just kind of a winter lull, and people are just hibernating a little bit.”

During this down time, students on campuses spanning California to Florida have been discussing the “next phase” of the movement, which Occupy Education says will begin today. More than 100 campus occupations and education and labor groups have told Occupy Education they will take part, but, as previous events have shown, many who participate do so informally. Expected student turnout is in the hundreds for many colleges; on many campuses, rallies or teach-ins are planned.

While the winter season and break from school have allowed protesters time for reflection and perhaps revision to their approach, it has also – for the media and some students – brought dwindling focus and camp closures. As the student activism historian Angus Johnston notes on his blog, more than three dozen campus occupations have sprouted up in the last five months, but many have since been shut down or are on hiatus after being evicted. Others have survived via telecommunication or weekly meetings in new locations, which, while undoubtedly pleasing to campus officials, has made it more difficult to gather.

“The value of the encampments is having a bunch of people in the same place with their various struggles … really coming and talking about the similarities,” said Ethan Jury, a Temple University senior who helped coordinate today’s events in Philadelphia. Jury also noted that the occupations that have been most active throughout the winter are in warmer climates (read: California). “It’s one thing to send e-mails, it’s one thing to have conference calls. But it’s another to be meeting each other.”

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