Occupy Takes Over UCI

Diane Oh/New University

On Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011, Orange County activists of the Occupy movement gathered around the flagpoles at UC Irvine to spread awareness about their efforts to reform the rampant fiscal irresponsibility of our economic system, and the federal complacence associated with it. Peaceful individuals from across Orange County congregated in reaction to the economic manipulation of the U.S. government. The greed of the corporations affects everyone, and if it hasn’t already, it will in the future.

The issue is especially pertinent to college students, according to the activists, because college students are among the demographic bearing the largest burden. UC students, for instance,  can expect escalating tuition fees, housing costs and student-to-professor ratios; in other words, college students are being forced to pay more for a lower quality education.

The Occupy Movement can trace its origins to the summer of 2011, when thousands of Spanish activists who referred to themselves as “the Indignants” marched from Madrid to Brussels in attempt to fix the economic crisis they were facing. The protest succeeded, resulting in revisions to the Spanish constitution to protect from a similar incident of economic mismanagement occurring again.

This protest is what initiated the Occupy Wall Street movement in various locations around the United States.

“I am fortunate enough that my tuition is paid for by my parents and this is my last year so I’m not going to be affected by tuition increases,” said fifth-year UCI psychology student and Occupy participant Danielle Morabdio. “I’m just tired of seeing the injustice done to people. … In this country we’re supposed to work hard and we’re supposed to live the dream, but we increasingly have to work harder just to survive, not even to thrive.”

Activists emphasize the phrase “We are the 99 percent,” chanting it as well as forming banners and signs around. The political slogan aims to reflect the statement that 99 percent of the American population directly feels the affects of consumerism, including lower wages and higher prices, while as the remaining 1 percent does not.

According to the Occupy movement, it is unfair that 1 percent of the nation receives benefits, in addition to their salaries, amounting to millions of dollars while the rest of the population continues to struggle with shrinking paychecks and skyrocketing inflation.

Moreover, the bailout of financial mega-corporations using taxpayer resources, exempts the corporations from assuming responsibility for the very actions that destabilized the economy. Due to these corporations failing to claim responsibility for their  fiscal mismanagement, the Occupy movement categorizes the budget crisis as a giant Ponzi scheme.

As such, the first step of the Occupy Orange County movement aims to educate people of the impact of corporate dominance on their everyday lives.

“I’m trying to be a good citizen and I’m getting punished for that? That’s messed up,” said third-year film and media studies major Katie.  “Other people are getting rewarded and they don’t deserve it. […] I’m just upset because I’m getting cheated off of something that I deserve.”

Often students fail to realize that their beliefs are equivalent to those expressed through the Occupy Wall Street movement, and are thus ignorant towards joining it or taking the time to learn about it.

But all of us are the 99 percent that deserve to be freed from this economic crisis, and the key to solving it is the unification of people — of the 99 percent.

It is important to consider that Orange County itself is the home of many large corporations, so in essence we are ironically living in the middle of what activists claim to be acts of “gangsterism.” When asked how he personally views the movement, Occupy Orange County activist Abdur Outlaw states: “We have become a community of perfect functionality. No one is ever hungry. No one is ever cold. No one goes without anything they need. And if we can expand that village to the world, if this could grow like a virus, we’d be okay.”