November 22, 2011BETHLEHEM — A group of concerned citizens is drumming up support for a local version of the fledgling world-wide Occupy movement, which started with Occupy Wall Street a little more than two months ago.
The weeks-old Occupy the North Country held a meeting last Thursday evening at The Colonial Theatre with a number of well-versed supporters and others who were still unsure what the cause was about but wanted to be a part of the discussion. At this point, the local Occupy is focused on disseminating information on addressing the need for "economic fairness," said Littleton's Sean Rutherford, rather than setting up encampments, such as in New York City, that have gripped the media's attention.
Most people are familiar by now with the movement's slogan, "We are the 99%," and a focus on social and income inequality, greed and corruption, though no specific demands are being made. The other "1%" represents where most of America's wealth is and roughly targets those who make $1.14 million per year or more.
Michael LaBonte of Littleton said that with the region's Republican base and older population, the group was just trying to get the word out.
It's important to remember the movement is about "hating the greed, not the greedy," said Thursday night's speaker Dianne Sinclair quoting University of Columbia professor, Robert Thurman, who she heard while in New York City. It's about taking power back from the 1 percent.
"It does us no good to be working out of hatred," Sinclair said.
Sinclair, who is from Porter, Maine, was visiting Bethlehem to share what the movement meant to her and what she had experienced during a trip to Occupy Wall Street — her husband had made three.
Occupy is a nonviolent, nonpolitical effort to build a democratic movement from the ground up, said Sinclair. It's based on consensus, which, while it may take more time, it makes for a stronger base.
"This is an inclusive movement," said Sinclair. "It means you have to work with people you might not like and might not always agree with." And she gave an example of a demonstrator who was allowed to hold a sign with an anti-Semitic message in accordance with the right to free speech, but another demonstrator held a sign with an arrow pointing to that man and a one-word disparaging remark.
Sinclair also addressed the criticism Occupy has received for not stating what protesters hope to eventually get.
"Demands are for terrorists," she said.
"I think if you make a demand to someone, that empowers them to grant your wish or not," Sinclair continued. "Why would we do that?"
But, said Sinclair, that doesn't mean the effort isn't well-organized.
"This is not a loosy, goosy movement," she said. "… the young people behind this movement are hard workers."
Sinclair also had suggestions to help send the message that change is needed — One: switch your banking to a local institution. And two: get your information from media sources not run by big corporations.
The movement is about nonviolent revolution, said Sinclair, not about reform.
"It's about transforming the way society works," she added.
"We are trying to shine a light in the faces of people who need to be woken up," said Dick Pollock, a North Conway photographer who, towards the end of the evening, shared a power point presentation and slide show of photos from the movement.
A General Assembly was planned for in front of Littleton's court house on Saturday, after the Courier's Friday deadline.
The movement is all about communication, and though some people may not be comfortable with the Internet, it's a great tool, said organizers. The local effort has set up a Facebook page at www.facebook.com/OccupyTheNorthCountryNH. Other resources include www.occupytogether.org and occupynh.org.