Occuparty Over Here!
The tents are gone, but Occupy Claremont lives on
After spending months camped out in front of Claremont City Hall, Occupy Claremont experienced a setback on January 24, when the City Council unanimously approved an ordinance requiring the movement’s tents to be removed from the front of the building within twenty-eight days. The ordinance explained that the tents, there since November, were a health and safety issue. One city official compared the tents to abandoned cars, and another insisted that this was not a repression of citizen protest, but merely an enforcement of the protection of public property. Similar ordinances have been passed throughout the country to limit local branches of the nationwide Occupy movements, which were based on the original Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City. The ordinances often limit the use of camping equipment in city parks and in front of government and public buildings. Members of the movement were understandably disappointed by the City Council’s decision, and some believed that a compromise could have been reached to allow the tents to stay standing.
The Occupy Claremont movement is mostly made up of Claremont residents, many of them residents of Pilgrim Place, a senior community dedicated to serving others. According to Emma French PZ ’13, herself and about two or three students from the Claremont Colleges are currently involved, although that number was closer to five or ten before winter break. Students would bring food to help maintain the presence of the camp.
Rather than mourning the end of the encampment, members of the Claremont movement commemorated the end of the physical presence of Occupy Claremont by hosting an “Occuparty” in front of City Hall on February 25. The event featured speakers, food, and live music performed by the Pilgrim Pickers of Pilgrim Place, and was co-sponsored by Occupy Claremont, Elders for the 99%, Move On Claremont, Direct Action Claremont, Eco Center, and Food Not Bombs. According to the movement’s website, the purpose of Occuparty was “to [celebrate] the effect Occupy has had around the country and even the world. It is meant to publicize the fact that we are being evicted, but to do it in a positive, self-empowering way that communicate[s] the fact that we’re not going to stop meeting and organizing.”
Occupy Claremont activists are adamant that the movement is not over simply because they have a smaller physical presence. French is very optimistic about the movement going forward, saying “we are in ways more productive now that we are not diverting so much energy to sustaining the physical occupation in front of city hall. We still meet weekly…and I meet with the Homes Foreclosure Committee every Thursday.” In addition to these meetings, the movement also organized a bank protest in front of the Claremont Wells Fargo in conjunction with Move On Claremont that took place over spring break. Protesters called on President Obama to fire Edward DeMarco, who currently serves as the head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) and oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two major players in the national subprime mortgage crisis. DeMarco has come under fire from many liberals in the past months, and activist group Rebuild the Dream recently delivered a petition with 85,000 signatures to the FHFA calling for DeMarco’s firing. French estimates that there were about thirty to forty protesters at the event.
The movement is also held a “Foreclosure Forum” in front of City Hall on March 25 to address the issue of bank foreclosures on homes in the Claremont community. According to the event flyer, over 300 houses in Claremont were foreclosed in 2011, and there were 38 foreclosures in January 2012 alone. The Foreclosure Forum featured speakers from Occupy L.A., Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), and Prudential California Realty.
Clearly, Occupy Claremont is resolute in their fight for economic and social equality not just in Claremont but also around the country. Despite the ordinance and the lack of a physical encampment, it seems likely that the city of Claremont will continue to see many demonstrations and events organized by the movement throughout the next few months. Whether more students will get involved remains to be seen.