Spearheaded by several Pitzer College students and members of the community, the international Occupy movement has found a footing in Claremont. Occupy Claremont, which draws support from both 5C students and Claremont residents, set up tents outside Claremont City Hall Nov. 20 and held its first General Assembly meeting Nov. 27, which attracted close to 85 attendees. Organizers of Occupy Claremont said that their goal is to bring about local change and to act in solidarity with the larger Occupy movement.
Marc Lichterman PZ ’15, who has been to Occupy L.A. several times, said that the movement is focused more on the Claremont community than the 5Cs specifically.
“The Claremont Colleges have their own things going on and sort of a different set of issues, so at this point I would like to focus on what the general Claremont community’s concerns are, because that’s where I think we’re going to have more people and get more done,” he said.
According to Lindon Pronto PZ ’12, one of the organizers of Occupy Claremont, a goal of the Occupy movement is to localize issues of protest.
“You have to start within your own community,” he said. “There are issues here as well that [we] as college students may not be as attuned to in our Claremont bubble, but [for] the residents of Claremont… it would benefit them to address the issues of Claremont.”
The first tents were pitched at Claremont City Hall on Nov. 20.
“I think that the point of the tents was to create a visual, because the General Assemblies were great at Pitzer, but there were no community members [there], so [being at City Hall] really makes it accessible to the villagers,” said organizer Emma French PZ ’13, referencing similar Occupy-aligned meetings that were held on Pitzer’s campus earlier this semester. “I think that the community-building aspect is very important.”
The first General Assembly meeting, which took place on Sunday, included two-minute statements from members of the Claremont community, who shared personal stories, reasons for joining Occupy Claremont, and ideas, objectives, criticisms, and goals for the movement.
According to Pronto, the movement was started by several Pitzer students who were regularly attending Occupy L.A. Students began holding General Assemblies at Pitzer and recently applied to become a Pitzer club in order to get funding.
“People who were passionate about it discussed that not everyone can get to L.A., but we can still show solidarity,” Pronto said. “We wanted to provide a space [for] open dialogue.”
Lichterman said he hoped the group would begin to create committees to work on specific issues in the Claremont community, including proposals to present before City Council.
“I’m hoping that over the next few General Assemblies, we’ll be able to form some committees that will move forward on various forms of action,” he said. “Hopefully it will be something that the whole community can get behind.”
So far, the movement has faced little opposition or threats of disbandment, as other Occupy events have in L.A., New York, and Berkeley. French said Claremont residents are often willing to talk with members of Occupy Claremont, even if they disagree, and Claremont Mayor Sam Pedroza approached the group and expressed support, even suggesting that they present proposals before City Council.
Along with 5C students, older Claremont residents have been drawn to Occupy Claremont as well. According to Occupy Claremont attendee Jim Lamb, 23 residents of local senior community Pilgrim Place attended the first General Assembly on Sunday.
“I think most [Pilgrim Place residents] are thrilled to see [this] happen and maybe participate in something so important as students trying to live out their ideals, and not wait until they are graduates,” Lamb said. “The movement is bringing energy and hope to all of us that believe that the world can be a better place.”
Still, Lamb said he was disappointed that more 5C students didn’t attend Occupy Claremont. “I was a little surprised and a little disappointed at that, and that encourages me to want to continue to help the process of exciting students and encouraging them to join their movement,” he said.
Pronto estimated that there are between eight and ten students involved in Occupy Claremont, all of them from Pitzer.
“I haven’t been as excited by a movement in this country since the 1960s and the 1970s,” Lamb added.
The next Occupy Claremont General Assembly will take place this Sunday, Dec. 3, at 2 p.m. in front of Claremont City Hall.