posted 2011-11-30 15:47:22

CUNY Students Take to Union Square

Occupy Hunter joins thousands of students on Day of Action at Union Square



One Nov. 17, the day of action, Hunter protesters shifted gears from mobilizing throughout the college to attend a mass student protest in Union Square.

Prior to the rally, protesters from Hunter marched down 68th and Lexington Avenue to the 59th Street 5 express train. Truck drivers honked their horns and members of the community took notice of the march, some asking questions and others snapping pictures of the protesting students.

In solidarity with the students, an MTA worker opened the emergency door and let a group of roughly 35 students into the subway station, free of charge. In astonishment, the crowd gallantly moved through the entrance and towards the express train chanting. Christina Chaise, a senior majoring in Sociology, was proud of the march towards the subway. “We marched down Lexington and got tremendous support from community members. That is success.”

On the subway, Hunter students successfully occupied one MTA subway car and continued to chant. “Mic check,” a Hunter College student who identified only as Sarah said “I am protesting because I work two jobs to stay in school. It’s hard to work, take care of my father, and keep up with school work.” Besides Hunter students, Sarah spoke to NYC passengers who eagerly listened to the unexpected commotion. “If this is the American dream, well then it’s a nightmare.”

As the group emerged from the subway at Union Square, three protesters held the “Occupy Hunter” banner and headed north along Union Square East before entering the park to march. At first, it appeared as if there were no protesters, merely cameramen and media waiting for action. The Hunter contingent walked through the park quietly chanting and scoping out the scene for other students.

Once the group reached the west side of the park and turned north, they saw thousands of students awaiting them. Ecstatically, other student protesters cheered and welcomed the arrival of the Hunter College students.

Thousands of students from schools all over the city cheered, waved signs, and told their stories. An esteemed Eugene Lang student proudly spoke to the crowd, “A police officer once looked at me and said I reminded him of his son. His son is in the graveyard. Look at me now. I am a student at Eugene Lang. If you want something, go out and get it,” he said. “Mic check,” he declared. “Fuck office hours, fuck internships.” The crowd roared in excitement.

Hunter student Christina Chaise spoke loudly to the crowd. “CUNY is my home, my opportunity. I come from the projects. Because of CUNY, I have a better chance. It scares me to think that the children of NYC may not have theirs. CUNY used to be free and it should be again.”

Students continued to wave their cardboard signs and shout slogans. By 5 p.m., the students at Union Square began to march again, presumably for Foley Square.

The group of thousands splintered off into several smaller marches, one of which veered off in the wrong direction towards Fifth Avenue. The march of hundreds headed south on Fifth Avenue, fully blocking street traffic and inadvertently assisted the beginning of the occupation of a study hall of the New School at Fifth Avenue and 14th Street. The New School administration openly supported the occupation, however it was short lived due to internal conflicts.

Police stopped the march at 14th street, effectively setting up barricades. The crowd dispersed and traffic was restored within a half an hour.

Later that evening, students joined protesters at Foley Square for a march on the Brooklyn Bridge. NYPD estimated the crowd to be roughly 32,250 strong.