Schenectady gets occupied

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By Erica Fugger

Picture this: Schenectady’s Historic Stockade District on a pleasant autumn morning. The Moon and River Cafe. A green, earthen exterior; indoor walls decorated with local art. One of the finest vegetarian menus in the area. And a meeting. A gathering aimed at invoking change.

With hope and frustration, nearly a dozen members from the local area convened the second congregation of the recently-formed Schenectady General Assembly. The Occupy movement had reached the Electric City.

Originally initiated by Schenectady’s own Megan Batcher weeks prior, last Saturday’s group was comprised of residents of all ages and occupations, along with a few representatives from Union’s faculty and student body.

Some in attendance had previously visited New York City’s Wall Street protests, while others planned to make the trek down to Albany the following morning. Above all, the one point of commonality was the wish to establish a call for action close to home.

Complete with “working groups” and legal consulting, the Schenectady General Assembly had taken on a form much like that of the larger movement. Utilizing the sign language motion for applause to agree with motions, the so-called “twinkling” conjured images of the NYC gatherings themselves.

Among the topics of discussion were the possibility of winter encampment, and efforts to bring new members to each weekly meeting. Also touched upon was the necessity of reaching out to other Occupy divisions in the area by corresponding with groups ranging from downstate in Poughkeepsie to all the way up in Buffalo.

One of the most striking topics brought to the table was the possibility of being tasered by local police during active protest. In hopes of preempting such measures, notes were exchanged as to the best action to take in such a scenario.

Also predicted was the arrest of protesters at Occupy Albany the very same night, a forecast that indeed came to fruition.

The group was com­­­pletely welcoming to the Union delegates, with statements issued proclaiming, “We love you guys.” One member of the company also made sure to emphasize the importance of motivating the campus community to become involved, asserting that the students of today would become the leaders of tomorrow.

As one Union student reflected on the importance of action from the common populace, whether it was saving local healthcare initiatives or hopes of reforming corporate infrastructure, it was agreed that the entire system of the American directive—finance, government, and so forth—is the complete focus of reform for the movement.

Coming out from a post-9/11 decade in which “people were afraid to say things above a whisper,” as one Schenectady member put it, the Occupy movement at large continues to demonstrate the ability to mobilize citizens worldwide to make a statement that something—if not everything—needs to change.

Arguments abound whether or not the action taken by the protesters is effective, whether the movement will actually do any good, and whether change is even possible given the current state of affairs. The only answer that seems apparent at this point: How can you be sure of anything unless you give it a try?

Interested in learning more about the Schenectady General Assembly? Meetings are held at the Moon and River Café, located at 115 South Ferry Street, on Saturdays at noon. For more information, contact the author at [email protected]

 

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