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."
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