posted 2011-11-30 15:51:21

Occupy Hunter Protesters March Indoors

Public Safety officers well prepared for protests

 JENADY GARSHOFSKY

DAVID KHUKHASHVILI

Students involved with Occupy Hunter gathered on the third floor of the west building for an indoor march on Wednesday, Nov. 16. The goal of the indoor march was to protest the CUNY budget cuts, tuition hikes, student debt, and the lack of transparency among Hunter and CUNY administrative salaries.

Congregating on the third floor of Hunter west, protesters shouted slogans such as “education is a right, fight, fight, fight!” As the crowd gathered, the first to speak was Hunter student Michael Keister, 27, a military veteran who served in Afghanistan. Keister raised the issue of tuition hikes and student debt. “How can you have freedom when you are enslaved by debt?” asked Keister, who then proceeded to fiercely state, “Freedom is a right!”

The omnipresent Public Safety officers were in full force during the march. Julian Guerrero, a senior majoring in Sociology and an activist in the Occupy Hunter movement, said he believes Public Safety officers were used as an intimidation tactic. “We see a lot of intimidation and oppression,” he said. Guerrero also claimed that campus security was “systematically ripping down fliers.”

In anticipation of the indoor march, Public Safety officers’ temporarily shut down the escalators of the west building, turned off the elevators, and lined the

third floor bridge with a large number of Public Safety officers. Upon seeing that the elevators were non-operational, the crowd began to shout “shame” repeatedly, addressing those who executed the temporary shutdown. The president’s office, as well as the financial aid office, were heavily guarded.

Sociology student Sarah Pomar, a 25-year-old junior, linked the heavy presence of CUNY peace officers to the eviction of the Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zuccotti Park two nights earlier. “There is a connection between the police eviction of Occupy Wall Street and security on campus,” said Pomar. She connected the ideology of both law enforcement bodies by saying, “campus security is here in large numbers because they think we’re a threat, because they think our political position is a threat to them, and they want to make it seem that our presence is a threat and illegal.” In words of encouragement to her fellow protesters, Pomar said “We will come back!”

Such a response by CUNY officials was expected by Guerrero. When asked how many people he expected to attend the protest, he said “I’m going to be cynical and say 20 people will be at the march. [Campus officials] are making it harder to organize. Security is not here to defend and protect us, they are here to oppress us.”

Protesters marched from the eighth floor of the east building and then used the staircase to access the 15th floor in hopes of reaching President Raab’s office.

However, their attempts fell short when they reached to top floor out of breath, as Public Safety had already blocked the hallway. Students chanted in the elevator corridor for a couple of minutes before leaving. The indoor march circulated throughout the school before it convened in the lobby of the west Building.

The following day was named the citywide day of action by the Occupy movement. In preparation for the day of mobilizing, Hunter students repeated similar methods to raise student awareness in the west building and on the third floor bridge. Conversations continued to revolve around the topics of Occupy Wall Street, the eviction of Zuccotti Park, tuition hikes, and the flawed infrastructures of CUNY and Hunter College.

Sandor John, an adjunct activist, joined in solidarity with Hunter Students as he declared support for the protesters outside Hunter west. In an inspired speech, John exclaimed, “we are with you, we support your struggle. Your struggle is ours. We will not be intimidated or allow our campus to be a police state.”

Cindy Gorn, an active organizer of Occupy Hunter, stood on top of a table on the third floor bridge shortly after the group relocated inside to stay dry from the rain. Referring to the recent tuition hikes and changes in college policy Gorn said, “It feels like we can’t stop this and that is wrong. Today there are strikes all over the US. [Protesters] delayed the New York Stock Exchange morning bell. We go to school here, we live here, we work here, we teach here. Administration filled out paperwork. We have to protest this. We can’t say oh well, too bad.”

Shortly after the rally on the third floor a banner was unrolled from the bridge connecting Hunter north and west, resulting in curious faces glued to the windows. “Don’t fuck with our education, students strike back,” read the banner. The banner waved in the rain for at least 10 minutes before it was removed by campus security.

Students proceeded to carry another banner which read “Occupy Hunter,” while they marched through the cafeteria doors and around the third floor before taking the march downstairs. Slogans such as “they say tuition hikes, we say student strike,” and “another world is possible, the students are unstoppable,” rang through the hallways of Hunter west. The protesters banged on the walls, opened class doors, cheered, and waved their signs.

Crystal Ng, 18, a freshman who hasn’t declared her major, felt moved by the protests walking throughout the halls. “I support it. It means something when students come together for something they believe in.”

Looking back on the week of action Guerrero said, “The week of action has been successful. We marched through the hallways and to Raab’s office. Thursday was much more exciting; we tried to agitate students, we held speak outs, teach ins.”