About 75 protesters gathered at IU's Sample Gates on Nov. 17 for a solidarity march on the two-month anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. A mix of students and local residents, the demonstrators condemned corporate influence and the social ills it perpetuates.
As they marched down Kirkwood to the Monroe County Courthouse, the protesters chanted, "The people, united, we will never be defeated" and sang, "Everybody pays their tax, everyone but Goldman Sachs!"
The Bloomington rally and march were coordinated with similar events from New York to Berkeley, during which almost 300 protesters were arrested nationwide.
Many gathered to protest the corporatization of public education and the inherently flawed and dysfunctional public school system. IU, like many other public institutions around the nation, has experienced the dire and observable effects of a failing national economy.
One of the protesters, who wished to remain anonymous, offered her reaction to the overall connectedness of the movement and charges it has no focus.
"I think people are connecting to it perfectly fine, and we understand what they're talking about," she said. "To me, the assertion that the movement lacks leadership and a clear message is just a media misconception."
Another participant, Jerome Martin, expressed his opinion about the impending harsh winter conditions and how he believes they will affect the movement's strategy.
"I think the movement, in itself, will fizzle out before the harsh winter, or during the harsh winter," he said. "However, I do think it has momentum right now. As you can see across the United States, they're starting to take action against them now, more aggressive action, and I think that could do one of two things: That could make them stronger, or perhaps, let them know that they're not making any progress, at all."
Two hours before the Sample Gates rally, Assistant Professor of Labor Studies Joseph Varga stressed that he is not a spokesman or a leader of the local movement but simply an active participant. He said the movement has only just begun and discussed its evolution.
"The process around reaching consensus has evolved through a lot of hard work," he said. "We've moved from discussing what we want to be as a movement to taking more action. A lot of the original core members of the movement have remained consistent, and it's really amazing how committed they are to what they're doing."
Varga acknowledged tension within the social dynamics of the occupiers themselves, but he sees it as a trivial issue.
"I think the main points of tension have been about the relationship of the group of occupiers to the police, to the larger community and the business community, but not so much with each other," Varga noted. "They're interested in having a political discussion, and a lot of what we talk about at the park is the process of consensus, getting along and blending those ideologies."
Over the past 10 years, citizen efforts to regain the high ground and the political framing about these questions have failed, Varga said.
"The most recent was the Obama campaign, which for a lot of people turned out to be a real big disappointment in its actuality," he said. "And in two months, this movement, because of its very audacity, has succeeded where others have failed."
Varga doesn't see potential challenges to the movement, such as harsh winter conditions or possible city administration enforcement, as significant issues.
"The space is important, and it's been important," he said. "But if we decide to go somewhere else, or if people decide that it is too cold, it's not going to stop what's already been started. This has gone so far that you can't stop it."
He also noted the concept of resource mobilization, which he studies extensively, as a potential future challenge.
"You have to constantly mobilize your resources and expand, or else you stagnate, and you kind of die," Varga explained. "To mobilize resources, you have to continually appeal to a larger and larger group, as in any kind of movement, you sort of water down your message to appeal to that larger group, and that's always a problem with any social movement."
Varga said the movement will significantly affect future public policies regarding wealth and income inequality.
"It already has an effect," he said, "Within two short months, the national conversation has really shifted from austerity, cutting budgets and slashing programs, to this issue of inequality, inequity and corporate control."
Varga also shared his thoughts on the nation's two-party system and whether the Occupy movement finds either party's motives relatable.
"Policy-wise, most of us favor the things that the progressive wing of the Democratic Party favors," he explained. "I favor things like same-sex rights, but I consider Republicans to be troglodytes on those issues, so, obviously, I'm going to be more sympathetic toward the Democrats."
As for as key issues such as corporate control, neither party is better than the other one right now, he added.
"If you look at the campaign cash that Obama is receiving, most of it is coming from Wall Street, so there's not much of a difference there," he said.
Varga's opinion on today's youth, particularly IU students, and his response was discouraging.
"I'm actually kind of shocked at the apathy of IU students," he said. "... This campus seems to be really lacking in that political awareness and desire to be out and be political."
Diana Petrova can be reached at .