The Occupy Wall Street movement made its first official appearance on the East End in Sag Harbor on Saturday afternoon, and a newly formed group of activists promises to meet publicly each week for the foreseeable future.
Using the name Occupy the Hamptons, a large and diverse crowd gathered at the foot of the windmill at to spread the word of the Occupy movement and speak against the corporatization of America and the inequality between the rich and poor.
Similar groups have been popping up all over the country since Occupy Wall Street moved into Zuccotti Park in Manhattan’s Financial District on Sept. 17, and demonstrations were planned in cities across America on Saturday.
“We are here to change how our government works,” protester Ty Wenzel explained as she addressed the crowd, which echoed each speaker, sentence after sentence. “For the past 30 years we’ve watched the 1 percent vacation in our backyards. Our beaches are no longer ours, our schools are overcrowded, our teachers are underpaid. We need to do something.”
Like Occupy Wall Street, Occupy the Hamptons voiced dissatisfaction with myriad issues and laws as well as the government as a whole, though the unifying focus is the disparity between the richest 1 percent of Americans and the remaining 99 percent that suffer economically.
Matt Laspia, an East Hampton resident sporting a green Mohawk and sleeves of tattoos presented the agenda for the Occupy the Hamptons General Assembly, explained the movement and laid down some ground rules for doing business as a public protester.
The Occupy movement is a system based on horizontalism, which is the opposite of a top-down centralized government, Laspia said, noting that there is to be no leaders, and equal power among all people. “Police can’t target specific individuals who are in charge, so we ain’t going away,” he said, pointing out the benefit of being a leaderless organization.
The group used hand signals to express approval or disapproval of various speakers and the ideas they put forth. When they discussed scheduling a weekly public assembly, dozens of outstretched hands reached into the air, wagging their fingers, much like applause for the deaf, but logistics of time and place became an issue and hands began to fall, proving that decision-making isn’t so easy without a leader.
Some complained of the cold in the late hours of the day, while others said they couldn’t miss church on Sunday morning, or work on Saturday.
“I’m sorry, it’s a little disorganized," Laspia said, adding, “That’s what happens with new movements.” Interpreting a general consensus, Laspia said the group would meet on Sundays at 3 p.m. in Sag Harbor, before eventually taking the cause to East Hampton.
To learn more about Occupy the Hamptons and to find out about future events, visit www.OccupytheHamptons.org, where the group has posters, a very active live chat room, news clippings, information about the Occupy movement and a schedule of activities.