Inspired by Occupy LA, Pitzer Students Organize

Mark Lichterman PZ ’13 and Michael Grey PZ ’13 met with students Monday evening at Pitzer College to begin planning their involvement in a medley of social activist organizations.

Both Lichterman and Grey have been influenced
by the Occupy movement.

Grey took a semester of leave, starting last October, to work with the Occupy branch in Los Angeles.

Lichterman also has been involved with the Occupy movement, working both at the 5Cs and, more loosely with Occupy LA since the movement’s inception
last year. However, he does not want Occupy to be a limiting factor in his plans
for this semester.

“Right now, we’re trying to move past the Occupy frame,
and one of the ways we’re doing that is through programs like the Free
School,” Lichterman said. “We’re also continuing our work
with Food Not Bombs, an organization that feeds the hungry in Pomona and also
provides food for protests and demonstrations, especially the Occupy movement.” 

The Free School Collective, a grassroots
education system composed of a series of free classes taught by community
members, has become a major component of both Grey’s work at Occupy LA and the
“post-Occupy” organizing that is currently underway at Pitzer. 

Lichterman stressed that a main focus of this semester’s
activities is “an expansion beyond the Pitzer campus.”

The students plan to begin a Cop Watch
program in the area. Cop Watch, an organization that encourages citizens to
monitor law enforcement with video and audio recordings to prevent
abuse, maintains chapters all over the country and an online database for

The students’ interest in the program came after the
eviction raid on Occupy LA last November, when two Pitzer students, Morgan Bennet PZ’13
and Alyssa Solis PZ’13, were arrested. There have been wide-spread claims of
police brutality and violence against civilians during the eviction raid.

“Ninety-five percent of the time, the footage won’t be used, but it’s that 5 percent that will end up being used in a court case that we’re
interested in,” Lichterman said.

Both Grey and Lichterman said that they have been pleased with the
response from Pitzer students.

“The student response has been positive,” Lichterman said.
“It is difficult to get students to commit, but the response to the
ideas has been positive. People seem to like the programs.”

According to Grey, student involvement with these
organizations is mainly limited to the Pitzer student body.

“To be perfectly honest, we haven’t done any networking
on the other 5C campuses,” he said.

Pitzer was the center of most of the Occupy-related
activities on the 5Cs last year, holding general assemblies and sending students to the Occupy Claremont tent encampment at City Hall. Pitzer students also traveled periodically to the Occupy LA

Originally based on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall,
the Occupy LA protesters were evicted by police Nov. 30 last year.

Grey said that the raid was a watershed moment for
both the movement and his personal involvement with it. He had previously
served on numerous committees for Occupy LA, including the Facilitation committee, which coordinated the logistics of the camp, and the Actions
committee, which facilitated and implemented regional protests.

“There was really a transition, pre-raid and post-raid,” Grey said. “Pre-raid I was doing all of these committees and post-raid I took on a
different role and got involved a lot with the Free School.” 

While the Pitzer students remain active, the Occupy
movement has seen a marked
decrease in participation over the last half year. When asked about the future
of the Occupy LA movement, Grey deemed it “dubious.”

“It’s unfortunate,” he said. “As the days pass people are getting
less and less involved, and I think [Occupy LA has] a lot of problems in
terms of stability and communication.”

Grey’s work with Occupy, however, has not slowed down. He helped organize the May 1 International Workers’ Day march in
LA. Four separate marches, the “four winds,” marched to Skid Row from
the four corners of Los Angeles County to feed the homeless, promote
the rights of laborers and raise awareness about economic inequality.

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