From the Archives, October 18, 2011: ‘Students show solidarity with Occupy Wall Street movement’

Photo credit: Molly Putman

Lilly Necker / Sun Star Reporter

One man, two blankets and two sleeping bags sent one message: “When we in Alaska can demonstrate outside by 40 below there is no reason for anyone else not to do so.”

Christopher Goodwin is 33 years old, studies linguistics and Spanish at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) and began the Occupy Fairbanks movement on campus. He spoke with friends who took place in the Occupy Wall Street protests in the Lower 48 and decided on Oct. 6 to take two blankets and two sleeping bags and pitch his tent at Constitution Park.

“ This action is all about showing solidarity and demonstrating that these protests are nationwide consensus,” Goodwin said.

But Goodwin hasn’t needed to sleep alone. In the first night, three other people showed spontaneous solidarity with him and camped on the hard green grass be- tween the turtles. One of them was Ethan Sinsabaugh, 27. The anthropology student was immediately electried by the idea of sleeping outside to take part in the nation- wide protest, he said.

“We in Fairbanks are unique because we don’t have one single enemy we disagree with like people on Wall Street. It’s more about the fact that everyone can agree that the system in general needs to be changed. We as a whole don’t agree with it and we as a whole are ready to form a new idea,” Sinsabaugh said.

On the second night, Goodwin had nine people sleeping outside with him. After that a solid group of about seven people who persevere in the cold has formed.

“I am glad I made that step, otherwise we would still be just talking,” Goodwin said. The protesters stayed busy by organizing several events throughout the week. A lot of meetings and general assemblies have dominated their days so far.

Celia Miller, 23, a biology student at UAF, is one of the leading organizers.

“I feel that the American Dream is no longer for everyone. I’m upset about the lack of economic opportunity, and the growing power of the corporations within our government,” Miller said. “We protesters aren’t crazy. We are talking about things that affect everyday people.”

One of the biggest meeting so far was an open microphone event on Oct. 14 in the afternoon where everybody was invited to speak about anything, even if it was not supportive of the Occupy Fairbanks movement.

Natural resources management student Aaron Smiley, for example, hasn’t decided what to think about what has happened on campus, he said.

“For me [they] don’t have a unified mission. It’s just various complaints to me right now,” Smiley said. “Besides that everybody here is like-minded. By keeping to them- selves they will not reach people. They need to go into the community.”

The campus protesters stepped out of their camp and set up an “Occupy Alaska Downtown March” on Oct. 15. Armed with signs, megaphones and their voices, more than a hundred people made their way from the Sadler’s parking lot all over downtown Fairbanks.

Sean Parson has taught politics and philosophy in the Department of Political Science for two years at UAF. e origin of the protest was Sept. 17 in New York, when 200 protesters decided to sleep in front of the Wall Street to demonstrate their frustration, Parson said.

Parson was invited to speak at the rst UAF Humanity Colloquium this year on Oct. 13. Because of the current developments he took the chance to extend his lecture about anarchism to talk about the Occupy Wall Street protest.

More that 150 students and community members attended the presentation. Even though the topic caused heated discussions after the lecture, everybody was quiet while the professor spoke about how the protest spread out all over the United States.

There are currently protests in more than 118 cities in the United States, Parson said. Internationally, some form of solidarity protests are also taking place.

“It’s really amazing, that this movement has actually spread to Alaska shows how powerful it is,” Parson said. “It’s kind of inspiring in general that it has nally made it’s way to the US. It was a long time coming.”

Why people are going out on the streets at this time, Parson can’t explain.

“It’s an increasing realization of how much unfairness currently exists,” Parson said. “ That’s not new but it was getting worse.”

After the breakdown of the U.S. bank Lehman Brothers in Sept. 2008, a worldwide financial crisis caused people to take to the streets in protest all over the world and especially in Europe.

When it comes to Alaska the media is getting more and more aware of the peculiarity of the Last Frontier being a part of the protest. And it hasn’t needed a lot of people to attract attention. e Los Angeles Times reported recently about Diane McEachern from Bethel who posted a picture a few days ago on her Facebook wall that shows her with her three dogs in the tundra holding a cardboard that says “Occupy the Tundra”. On the UAF campus the students’ will to make a change isn’t broke yet, even though it has started snowing.

“We will stay here until the temperature display shows minus 40. That will be a hell of a fun winter,” Goodwin said.

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