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On the second day of the Conference on World Affairs, CWA panelists spoke to an enthusiastic and diverse audience about the future of the Occupy movement.
The topic was “The Occupy Movement: Where it is Going.” The panel was held in the UMC Center Ballroom on Tuesday from 3 to 4:20 p.m. and featured speakers Jay Harris, Matt Howard and Scott Olsen. An estimated 500 people attended the event.
Thomas Tibbals, a 23-year-old junior international affairs and Russian studies major, said that he attended the panel to hear experts’ opinion about the Occupy movement.
“We talk a lot about [the Occupy movement] at work, and I wanted to hear what the experts had to say versus what the media has to say about it,” Tibbals said.
Panelist Harris, co-founder of the We the People campaign, said that he was impressed with the initial organization of the Occupy movement that took place in New York.
“I was really awestruck that the Occupy folks were dealing with the city of New York, the media, the population in the park, merchants and celebrities,” Harris said. “And while they are dealing with all of this, they are building an underground infrastructure to other Occupy movements.”
Occupy Wall Street was the original movement that took place in New York City in 2011 that sparked a worldwide Occupy movement. With thousands of likes on the Occupy Wall Street Facebook page and countless pages made to support the cause, the movement is growing.
Harris said that the Occupy movement inspired people and made a change that would not easily be undone.
“I think the issue was that people didn’t believe things could change,” Harris said. “Occupy gave people hope and a reason to show optimism. I think the movement has lit a fire that won’t be put out.”
Scott Olsen, an Iraq War veteran who was injured at a Occupy demonstration, said that Occupy’s impact on the community is lasting, and that as members of a community, Occupy can make lasting changes.
“I think Occupy has already had a lasting impact - it has changed people’s hearts,” Olsen said. “As long as we work together, the power of the community can change things.”
In response to a question about the apparent lack of organization of Occupy, Olsen said that the people at the center of the movement suffer from inexperience and an unwillingness to accept help from organizations that offer it.
“The people at the core are not acting because they don’t know how to do broad-based organization, and they have also been afraid to accept help from outside organizations,” Olsen said. “I think it is a balance between the two: Keeping your independence and accepting aid.”
The next event that Occupy hopes to organize is a worldwide event. A general strike will be held on May 1. “Occupy May Day” will consist of not attending school and work, and also not participating in banking, trading or shopping.
Panelist Howard, who was active in Occupy San Francisco and Occupy Oakland, said that although the movement has no united cause, Occupy is something that hasn’t been seen before.
“There is no one uniform cause to Occupy,” Howard said. “There are some that are radical and want to redo the whole system, and there are some who want to work with the system we have. I think Occupy is unique because it is innovative.”
“This is a movement where people are realizing their own power,” Howard said.
Howard believes that Occupy is so impactful because it brought a sense of community to the American people.
“The reason Occupy made sense to people was because it created community in a way that maybe wasn’t there before,” Howard said. “I’ve seen social justice groups in Oakland that had a big-tent effect where people would come together and say, ‘hey maybe our causes aren’t so different after all.’”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Bethany Morris at Bethany.Morris@colorado.edu