Occupy CSULB aims to ‘give everyone a voice’

The Occupy movement made its way to Cal State Long Beach’s upper quad Wednesday, collaborating with the California Faculty Association to host “The National Solidarity Teach-in” and “Operation Defend Education.”

Occupy CSULB’s inaugural event started at 12 p.m. with an introduction to the Occupy movement and a moment of silence for Occupy Oakland protesters, but also included a 2 p.m. teach-in with political science professor Liesl Haas’s POSC 100 class and a “general assembly” at 6 p.m.

“I think [this movement] is intentionally and strategically open-ended,” said Ryan Serrano, an Occupy CSULB organizer and former CSULB student.

Occupy CSULB, like many of its national counterparts, isn’t a monolith of political thought, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, according to the group’s organizers.

Serrano explained that the group would use four hand gestures during its “general assembly” — one signifying agreement, another disagreement and two others that can block or interrupt an opinion — so as not to “drown out any voices.”

“We’re recreating democracy,” he said.

And that’s exactly what the Occupy movement is aiming to do, according to this group’s organizers: Give everyone a voice.

“I think that this is the biggest political movement of our generation,” said Lindsay Stepancich, a junior psychology major. “It’s time for people to start acting like a democracy. We need to stand up.”

CSULB’s version of the Occupy movement began when a group of students — some already involved in Occupy Long Beach and others just members of the university’s Political Science Student Association — decided it wouldn’t be a bad idea to bring the “99 percent” to their campus.

“We need to inform students that they have the power to change this,” said Timothy Maurer, an Occupy CSULB organizer and senior communications major, referring to student debt and the current job market.

“It’s our future, we’re inheriting this country,” he added.

Maurer believes in a “separation of business and state,” but organizers are quick to say that their political beliefs don’t necessarily characterize others in the group.

Donnie Bessom, a CSULB political science graduate assistant and Occupy CSULB organizer, contrasted the need for a unified message with the movement’s goal of giving all participants a voice.

He explained that, although the Occupy movement needs a unified message, it couldn’t have this at the expense of other voices.

Bessom also spoke to Haas’ POSC 100 class about the importance of political activism.

“We, the 99 percent, want to tax the 1 percent to fund education,” he told a group of about 50 students.

The group’s organizers hoped more classes would participate in the “teach-in,” but thought Occupy CSULB’s inaugural event was a “tremendous success” anyway.

“I’ve been waiting 10 years for people to get mad enough to do something,” said Toni Kukreja, CSULB’s lead parking officer. “As soon as they did, I hopped on board.”

Although, at times, faculty pushed student participation in CFA-organized picketing and “concerted action,” Occupy CSULB was primarily student-led.

“The university depends on your passivity,” Haas said, encouraging students to participate in faculty picketing.

Indeed, the group’s organizers highlighted the importance of the CFA’s involvement.

“They have great organization [and] great energy,” Maurer said, explaining that the union’s goals didn’t differ very much from Occupy CSULB.


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