In the four hours before the Republican economic debate at Dartmouth College, Occupy Dartmouth, a group aligning with the growing movement initiated by Occupy Wall Street, demonstrated against corporate greed on the Dartmouth Green.
The demonstration attracted an estimated 100 protesters throughout the day, with a peak crowd of 70. Occupy Dartmouth’s outreach efforts – which included emails to the Dartmouth student body, putting up posters around campus and the surrounding town of Hanover, and tweeting – spanned less than 48 hours. Aimee Le, a member of the class of 2012, said that with such little time to prepare and publicize, they expected only a dozen supporters but were pleasantly surprised by the large turnout.
According to the Valley News, a local newspaper, the Occupy Dartmouth demonstration drew at least one person who had shown up independently to demonstrate in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street. She quickly joined Occupy Dartmouth upon learning of their presence. A number of Dartmouth faculty and staff also joined the group.
Nina Rojas ‘13 and Janet Kim ‘13 worked with Le to organize the demonstration. Le said that the group was inspired by Occupy Wall Street, and that Le and Rojas visited Occupy Boston on Saturday to participate in the movement first-hand. Rojas, an active member of Students Stand With Staff – a student group which supports College employees regardless of union membership – was the principal organizer of the event.
The “Campaign Visibility Area”, a barricaded corner of the privately-owned Dartmouth Green, was set aside for the exercise of demonstrators’ First Amendment rights. Occupy Dartmouth peacefully stood outside the area, which some referred to as the “Free Speech Zone” or “the cage”, until two officers from the college’s private Safety & Security department approached them. Occupy Dartmouth complied, coordinating a unified movement into the barricaded area using the people’s mic: a speaker speaks in short phrases which are then repeated – loudly – by others in earshot to create a human amplifier. This technique has been used extensively at Occupy Wall Street and at its sibling movements where amplification systems are prohibited.
The demonstrators twice joined together in singing protest songs, led by Le and accompanied by Rojas on guitar.
One Dartmouth student set up a tent as if to begin an occupation, and covered it with some of Occupy Dartmouth’s articulate, well-drawn signs. He was asked four hours later to remove the tent by a reluctant Hanover police officer.
At 8 pm, the occupiers dispersed to various locations around campus to watch the candidates debate economic policy.
Once the debates ended, three Republican candidates visited the students in the overflow seating in Leede Arena. Former Ambassador Jon Huntsman, Former Speaker Newt Gingrich, and House Representative Michele Bachmann, one at a time, made their way around the arena mobbed by media and speaking with excited students over metal barricades (not unlike the bike racks Menino delivered to Occupy Dartmouth).
Occupy Dartmouth member Deanna briefly engaged with each of the candidates as they passed by. She told Huntsman that Occupy Wall Street represents the concerns of the majority of Americans. According to Deanna, Huntsman replied, “I agree”. She asked of Gingrich, “How do you feel about banks and corporations having their personhood recognized more than the personhood of the average American?” Gingrich reportedly replied, “I don’t think that’s right”.
Michele Bachmann was the anomaly of the candidates who appeared. Bachmann first engaged with the students, but promptly began ignoring them once they revealed their affiliation with the Occupy Wall Street movement. Deanna strained to speak with the presidential candidate, requesting that she fight for equal pay and protection from workplace discrimination and sexual harassment. Bachmann resolved to pay the respectful students no mind, instead screaming in delight and dancing at a show of support further back in the stands.