“Occupy Northampton” Brings Nationwide Protests to a Local Level
Published: Friday, October 7, 2011
Updated: Friday, October 7, 2011 13:10
NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – Occupy Northampton, the local branch of the ongoing Occupy Wall Street protests that began in New York City on September 17th and have since spread across the nation, staged their own event from eight a.m. to eight p.m. on Thursday, October 6th in downtown Northampton, directly in front of the local Bank of America branch. In doing so, the protesters hoped, as organizer and local Northampton resident Seth Newton explained in an e-mail interview, to "give people hope that feel hopeless and alone in their sense of discontent in our country."
By midday, roughly 50 supporters had arrived. They stood in a small section of road that had been blocked off for them by the police force of Northampton, to prevent sidewalk congestion and crowding in the greater downtown area. A small group of musicians played protest classics such as "Freedom" and John Lennon's "Imagine."
"Demand corporate responsibility!" read one sign. Another warned its viewers to "VOTE – unless the billionaires already brainwashed you."
"I'm here to bail out my kid's future," said Jennifer Healey, 39, a librarian, mother and board member of Grow Food Northampton, a local organization dedicated to community farming. "I think there's a lot of interrelated problems in the world, and I think that one of the crucial ones right now is the staggering levels of corporate greed and outright criminal behavior. And I'm disgusted, and I'm infuriated."
Halfway through, her voice began to shake.
"College students have been sold a bill of goods," she said. "They're graduating in droves and not finding jobs and saying, what the heck am I supposed to do now? What am I supposed to expect? And it's not their fault. None of this is the fault of college students, who are saying, what is going on?"
Dozens of passing cars honked in support of the protesters, who waved and cheered in response. The crowd was a diverse one, with attendants ranging from childhood to old age; most appeared to be local Northampton residents, with a few Smith students and alumnae scattered throughout.
"I think Occupy Northampton is a great opportunity for [Smith students] to show their support on social issues that may be more specific to them as well as broader issues affecting nearly every person in our country or world," wrote Newton when asked about the relationship between the town of Northampton and Smith College in the context of the protests.
Two police officers stood nearby, checking their cell phones and occasionally glancing at the crowd, which remained peaceful, if also loud and enthusiastic.
"We have dealt with numerous protests here in town and we really never have had a problem and I trust that there will be no problem out there today," said Captain Scott Savino of the Northampton Police Department. When asked his opinion about the numerous allegations of police brutality that have been directed towards the New York Police Department during Occupy Wall Street, he refused to comment, stating that, "If there is [a problem today], we'll take appropriate police action as needed."
Those interested in Occupy Northampton can fan their Facebook page for continued updates and future meetings. Other local takes on Occupy Wall Street include Occupy Amherst, which holds general assemblies every Wednesday at five p.m. on Amherst Common, and Occupy Springfield, which will hold a rally at Court Square on Monday, October 17th. Occupy Boston, which officially began on September 30th, is ongoing and located in Dewey Square, in the city's financial district.