Community-based occupation blooms in Maryland
|May 4, 2012||Posted by Michael Goldman under News, Print Issues, Stories, Volume 2, Issue 3 (May/June 2012)|
After a winter of planning meetings held in co-ops and basements around suburban Maryland, Occupy Montgomery County emerged for their first People’s Assembly on March 31. The assembly, attended by over 50 people, took place in Woodside Park in Silver Spring. While many of the attendees were Occupy DC veterans, others had never attended a General Assembly before.
“It’s nice to see people coming together so close to D.C.,” said Michael Acosta, who came from Occupy Reno. “It shows that there are interested people everywhere. Even though there are not 100 or 200 people here, this is effective.”
The group met for the first time in early February after suburban participants from Occupy DC decided it was time to address local issues in Montgomery County and open up the Occupy experience to those with other commitments. Much of the discussion at early planning meetings had been on how to foster a family-friendly atmosphere with shorter meetings and a revised consensus process. The planning group even discussed whether the Occupy Montgomery County meetings should be held outside.
“[I] feel like the first stage of Occupy was to grab attention,” said Kathleen Sutcliffe, explaining Occupy Montgomery County’s focus on local issues. “[Now the movement is about] being where the people are. That’s one of the strengths of Occupy Montgomery County – confronting the issues where they are.”
Sutcliffe cited the group’s recent protest of a tax rebate that the county was offering Lockheed Martin as an example. “Teachers are losing their jobs at the same time that the county is cutting [corporate] taxes. Lockheed Martin is completely out of line asking for these giveaways.”
The meeting was termed a People’s Assembly because one of Maryland’s legislative bodies is called the General Assembly. Several families with children participated, and a few curious passers-by joined as well. “It went great,” said Martine Zee, who was heavily involved in the planning stages. “We had a lot of new faces [who hadn’t been at the planning meetings] and a lot of diversity.”
Among those new to the Occupy movement are local high school students who have begun attending Occupy Montgomery County meetings. “This is one of the few things I get out and do,” said Daniel Zucker, a student at Einstein High School in Kensington. He usually doesn’t get involved in school activities but loves participating in Occupy Montgomery County. “People who are dedicated inspire people to be dedicated,” he said.
Learning along the way is important to many members of Occupy Montgomery County. While some bring years of organizing experience to the table, many are new to the Occupy movement. The group sees this as an opportunity to become its own variation of the movement. “[It’s] very important to stay educated,” said participant Angela Swayze, referring to what other Occupy groups were doing, “but [we need] to learn on the ground.”
Occupy Montgomery County can be found on Twitter as @OccupyMoCoMD.