Students, Ex-Mayor Rally Support for Occupy LA

Students talk about the state and future of the movement at Santa Monica College on Thursday.

Dozens of students, along with former Santa Monica Mayor Mike Feinstein, rallied support for Occupy Los Angeles and the "Occupy" movement in general at a 60-minute gathering at  on Thursday.

Feinstein and about a dozen students spoke at the event, which took place from about 11:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., and was organized and moderated by Harrison Wills, president of SMC's Associated Students. There were also multiple question-and-answer periods, some brief music performances and many calls for students to take part in the grassroots Occupy Los Angeles movement downtown.

Students shared their thoughts and asked questions about the state and future of the movement, which is railing against corporate profits, worker layoffs, the existing federal-tax structure and other issues. Occupy Los Angeles was launched roughly two weeks ago in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street in New York, which began about a month ago.

At Thursday's gathering, which was held at the Quad, Feinstein—the keynote speaker of sorts—shared his perspectives on the causes behind the Great Recession and promoted the idea of a new Constitutional Convention in California.

"Government should be all of us," not politicians swayed by lobbyists, he argued. "There's socialism for corporations and capitalism for the rest of us."

Feinstein recalled his days as mayor and insisted on the necessity of government regulation.

"When I was mayor, we said our buildings have to be greener, we need to have living wages for people," he said. "These are the social standards we decided on."

While some students criticized the media for having suggested that the "Occupy" movement doesn't have a coherent message, a vast array of topics were touched upon at the Thursday gathering. Students voiced frustrations about , cuts to class offerings, student loans, the collusion of government and big business, corporate malfeasance, and the power of big banks.

Wills urged students to take their money out of Bank of America and move them into a community bank instead. Incidentally, a MoveOn.org protest is scheduled for Thursday at 5 p.m. outside the Bank of America branch at 1301 Fourth St.

Students generally seemed optimistic about the "Occupy" movement and appeared pleased to be uniting together for the effort.

"My faith in humanity has been restored," Josh Scuteri said.

"Community is something we lost in our society," Isis Enriquez said. "We're [occupying downtown] to decide together what we want. Come and talk, tell us what you think. Get out there, get involved—or just go check it out."

Nikki Edenedo, who is in her second year at SMC and majoring in communications, supports the movement but expressed some concerns.

"How do we get more people involved?" she asked Wills during a question-and-answer period. "This is only a fraction of the student body."

"Well, look what we were able to put together in 24 hours," replied Wills, who began organizing the event on Wednesday. "It's not a sprint, it's a marathon."

Wills, along with 13 other members of the AS, recently voted to support the "Occupy" movement. After answering additional questions, he invited students to take to the mic.

Edenedo shared her thoughts, saying, "I want to envision myself going to college, graduating—and being able to pay for it, as my parents did," she said.

Expressing similar concerns was Jahnny Lee, who said, "We're paying more tuition every semester and people are going to extremes to pay debt. Student loans are debt."

Lee announced that students at more than 100 colleges would be participating in a walkout on Thursday afternoon, to show solidarity with the "Occupy" movement. A similar nationwide walkout was held last week.

"I'm here because I'm angry," stated a student named Jimmy. "I live off $5,500 and live with someone who was nice enough to take me in."

Anger aside, he ended his comments by saying, "This country can flourish again."

Arthur Rodriguez, an SMC student who is the grandson of legendary civil-rights leader César Chávez, struck an even more positive note.

"The gap between us and them, there is none, because we're all made up of bones and DNA," he said. "Even people in the banks, they're people too."

"Envision a world where every human being is doing what they really want to do allowing natural talent to flourish," added a student named Ahman.

Toward the end of the action, Wills suggested that "Occupy" supporters would congregate at the Quad every Thursday for the foreseeable future.

Feinstein had his own set of instructions for the students.

"Get your work done, don't blow off stuff," he said. "But take a little time to read Facebook—and get your ass downtown."

For more on the Occupy Los Angeles protest, check out:

Ex-Mayor to Support Students' Occupy LA Efforts

Viewfinder: Images From Occupy LA

Do you support Occupy Los Angeles? Share your thoughts and take our poll.

Gary Kavanagh October 15, 2011 at 05:09 AM
I think you misunderstanding the quote. I think what he is getting at is the unfair system we have created in which some major corporations and financial institutions operate with high risk that is backed by social spending, the bail outs, while for regular people and small businesses, the social safety net is shrinking, and many people and small businesses are failing or go into bankruptcy. It is not a truly free market if government backed favoritism allows some massive corporations to privatize their profit and socialize their risks and losses onto everyone else, but no individuals or small companies have the luxury of such a rigged benefit.
Paul Rich October 15, 2011 at 05:41 AM
"Social safety net." "Social spending." Semantic-wise, it gets muddled when clarity, whether one agrees or disagrees, is so vital for a functioning educated democracy. Totally agree that "too big to fail" is the root of our discontent. But Wall Street is only part of the problem. Congress and the executive branch are equally culpable. Why is it so hard for "college-educated" folks to understand the disconnect from academia's insulated utopian wish-list of how the world should work and how the real world actually does work -- and doesn't work. It is hard to imagine now how radical, how revolutionary, how bold and brilliant the American 'social' experiment was in the 1700s, an unprecedented and terrifying threat to the powers that be that ruled the masses since the dawn of civilization. It too had a "utopian" vision ... that of an agrarian society that reveled in individual freedom and expression -- with a centralist federal government shackled by a constitution answerable to the people, lest it mutate into a totalitarian monster as all governments had since antiquity. The European model so ballyhooed by academic elites is failing miserably. Social justice and economic reform, yes. Throwing the baby out with the bath water and repeating historic Marxist mistakes, no.
Greg Fry October 16, 2011 at 12:05 AM
Wanting those who can most afford it to pay their fair share of taxes is not "Marxism"--it is what our nation was in the 1950s and 1960s at the height of our prosperity. The right wingers have been given everything--especially over the last decade or so--and what has been the result? "Wealth extraction" from our entire nation by multinational corporate plunderers! By the way, go to Western Europe some time--I'd LOVE to "fail" like they are with mutual prosperity, fully funded services, long vacations and high incomes! Afraid of "socialized" medicine? Their life expectancy is longer than ours too! Let's follow the European model for prosperity for all and not just the one percenters!
Paul Rich October 16, 2011 at 01:06 AM
Agree with first statement. Close the loopholes and throw out the tax code and re-write it. "Right wingers have been given everything" is an oft-repeated mantra that is simply not true and we can agree to disagree on that. Coincidentally, it's a mantra that Marxist revolutionaries used to demonize the wealthy that led to horrific mass murder and destruction. Western Europe? The credit card has run out. They had fun while it lasted. Would have loved to party in Greece but that "house of credit cards" is teetering, the Euro crumbling and the impact on the global economy will be devastating. When you demonize and dehumanize by class and political affiliation, intellectual honesty and debate is compromised. A recommendation by any author identified as "conservative" or even with centrist-right world views are mostly ignored. I had been solely on the Left my whole life, until I realized they did not truly embrace open-minded debate. Enjoy Europe!
Greg Fry October 16, 2011 at 01:58 AM
Just what haven't the right wingers been given during the Bush era? They looted the Social Security trust fund the tune of half a triliion dollars in ordrr to fund excessive tax "rebates" to the ultra wealthy. Everything was deregulated--another right wing mantra--and the system almost collapsed completely. Corporations were given every tax break in the book because that was supposed to create jobs--instead they used the money to send our jobs overseas. Wanting the rich to play fair and pay their fair share is not "class warfare"--another tired and meaningless phrase used by the hard right. That's the way it was here in the U.S. during the height of our prosperity. The Western European countries I refer to are the Scandinavian countries, France, Germany, the U.K. Netherlands and Belgium--countries that have consciously made the effort to build more just and fair societies and they're doing just fine, thank you very much. We needn't go that far even--Canada, with its fully funded social services is kicking our tail economically right now.


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