GU Absent From Occupy DC
Published: Monday, November 14, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, November 15, 2011 13:11
While students across the country set up Occupy camps on their campuses, D.C.'s wing of the anti-establishment protest movement has garnered little support from Georgetown students.
The cluster of tents in McPherson Square, about 2.5 miles from the front gates, sees about 200 regular protesters per day. Few if any of these dissenters are students from Georgetown.
A group of at least 30 students organized by the Georgetown Solidarity Committee attended a rally on the National Mall Oct. 15. But enthusiasm for the protests has waned since then, according to Gina Bull (SFS '12), who attended the Oct. 15 gathering.
Bull started a group called Georgetown Occupy about a week after the rally. The group meets weekly but has struggled to maintain consistent support, she said.
"I think there is a certain reputation about Georgetown where students are actively involved in the political institution but are not as eager to get involved in grassroots campaigns like this," Bull said.
But for some students, it is the nature of the movement, and not of Georgetown students, which explains the lack of interest.
"Their anger is misdirected, and I think, frankly, that it's no longer a protest movement … It's just vagrancy," Tim Carey (COL '12) said. "I'm not sure how you could be a Georgetown student and live there."
Charles Berahas (COL ‘11), who is involved with the Occupy movement, said he feels the lack of student representation can be attributed to the kind of students who attend the university.
"As much as Georgetown likes to deny this, Georgetown students are mostly white, rich, American kids," he wrote in an email.
Berahas added that he thinks the university itself prevents students from becoming involved. "[The] frameworks through which most political, governmental and economics classes are taught … [produce] alumni who end up representing the very system that the occupy protesters are protesting about," he said. "The minimal participation of Georgetown students is completely understandable as far as I'm concerned."
Ben Johnson, a freshman at American University who attended an Occupy D.C. protest Saturday, agreed with Berahas.
"I think Georgetown University lives in its own world," he said. "Georgetown as a community doesn't really want to have anything to do with this movement, because Georgetown as a community benefits from the current system."
Supporters of the Occupy movement have been setting up camp on the campuses of many of Georgetown's peer institutions.
In Cambridge, Mass., a group of Harvard students have erected about 20 tents in Harvard Yard. An occupy protest has also emerged at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where about 70 people "occupied" a vacant car dealership, according to The Daily Tar Heel, UNC's student newspaper.
On the west coast at the University of California-Berkeley, 31 of about 1,000 "Occupy Cal" protesters were arrested last Wednesday after a violent confrontation with campus police. Despite the raid, students have continued to protest in front of the campus's main entrance.
Bull hoped that the student activism on these campuses might spread to Georgetown.
"We're not Berkeley, obviously … [but] this is a good opportunity for students to get off the Hilltop and down to the grassroots level," she said.
Hoya Staff Writers Beth Garbitelli and Matthew Strauss contributed to this report.
Correction: In an earlier version of this story, quotations said by Gina Bull were mistakenly attributed to Vail Kohnert-Yount. The corrected version was posted at 11:45 a.m. Tuesday morning.