Amnesty International Meeting Occupies Lowenstein




The international “Occupy” movement hit Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) when Amnesty International held its first Occupy Lowenstein town hall meeting on Oct. 27. Amnesty International also raised concerns of police brutality when they facilitated a discussion that prompted students to uncover the meaning behind Occupy Wall Street (OWS).  Members at the meeting questioned whether protestors would sustain strength as winter arrives.

The club planned on sponsoring the Robin Hood Tax March on Oct. 29 in New York City, but due to the unexpected winter weather conditions, the event was cancelled. Sogand Afkari, FCLC ’12 and president of Amnesty International, said that the Robin Hood tax would add a one percent increase to taxes on business transactions around the world.

Afkari said that students can still support the protest online. “We’ll be keeping the movement alive through the Internet,” Afkari said.

The town hall meeting at Fordham gathered students of various backgrounds and political beliefs. Some of those in attendance had gone down to the protest site and others had yet to check it out.

Charlie Martin, FCLC ’14 and secretary of Amnesty International, said, “We wanted to host a dialogue on [Occupy Wall Street] to allow a platform for the Fordham community to share experiences, information and opinions.” Martin said that the goal was to attract a significant number of people to the event and to have “a meaningful rapport.”

Martin said that although the idea to create an occupation of a space at Fordham was influenced by OWS, it was the Tea Party movement that caused the club to hold a town hall meeting. “Obviously these two movements are quite different, but they seem to be construed by the media as polarized groups,” Martin said. “I saw the linking of these two [concepts] as a gesture of unity and dialogue.”

In addition, Amnesty International felt it was important to raise awareness about the Scott Olsen police brutality case. Olsen, a two-time Iraqi marine and war veteran, was critically injured after policemen threw a tear gas canister that hit his head on Oct. 25 during Occupy Oakland.

“This is a really unfortunate example of police brutality on protestors,” Afkari said. “We’re going to definitely continue exposing the Scott Olsen case and promoting the accountability of Oakland police.”

Students like Pia Desangles, FCLC ’14, who stayed over Zuccotti Park during the very early stages of the protest, witnessed when the ground rules of the protest were being laid out. She described the protest as being different because it is a movement that is “stronger for not having a specific message.”

How long the protest will last remains a mystery, but Desangles said that there are people who feel that winter will prove detrimental to the movement.

Desangles, who networked while at the protest, said that she met journalists from “Democracy Now,” a daily television and radio program. “The connections you make are the most important because what if the winter does break it up? I’ll still be getting e-mails from them.”

Nicholas Giordano, FCLC ’14, said that he has not gone to the protest site, but after the town hall meeting, he plans on visiting soon. “This meeting has made me imagine what’s really going on there and at first I was just scared and concerned. Now I have more respect for it.”

Although Amnesty International cancelled the Robin Hood Tax March trip, snowfall did not stop Emmanuel Pardilla, FCLC ’14, from attending the march on Oct. 29. “Due to the conditions, the march was carried out by, literally, a handful of protestors,” Pardilla said. “I am for the Robin Hood Tax because, for the most part, that would mean taxing the rich.”

Pardilla was at the town hall meeting and shared about his involvement with “Occupy Wall Street en Espanol,” a group that helps translate “ The Occupied Wall Street Journal Newspaper” into Spanish.

“We have a table in the park where we have people answering questions pertaining to the movement to our Spanish speaking [brothers and sisters],” he said.

Pardilla said that Occupy Wall Street is not just a movement, but also a platform. He said that the Latino and African American communities are some of the most oppressed communities in America. “We are here to represent them so that they can relate to this struggle against a system that has oppressed the 99 percent,” he said.

Both Afkari and Martin have gone to OWS and shared their view of the movement. Afkari said that Occupy Wall Street is a global issue. The continuation of the movement when winter arrives depends on how much patience and perseverance protestors have to deal with the weather. “I don’t personally have the confidence that people will still camp out there, but the movement will definitely continue,” she said.

Martin said, “It made me appreciate the efforts of the movement in a really concrete way, despite the fact that I still have mixed feelings about the Occupy movement. I would recommend anyone who is curious to go down to the financial district and check it out for themselves.”