Less than 20 students left their classrooms for the Free Speech Lawn on Oct. 5 to protest high tuition and faculty layoffs. On Oct. 13, over 50 student protesters marched down the Breezeway and almost got in trouble with FAU police for allegedly chanting too loud.
They didn’t clash with the cops, but they did get the attention of professors, students and local media.
These protestors are part of Occupy FAU, a group with no official demands and no support from student clubs. Despite that, since their Oct. 4 creation, they’ve gained 142 likes on Facebook, faculty support and media coverage from the Sun-Sentinel, CBS12, WPBF ABC 25, Orlando Sentinel, Huffington Post and Palm Beach Post.
Occupy FAU is inspired by Occupy Colleges, a website for college groups that support Occupy Wall Street, which protests economic inequality and corporate influence on government.
“It’s a way of showing solidarity and show that students, faculty and staff are part of the 99%,” said senior economics major Gonzalo Vizcardo, an Occupy FAU organizer.
“The 99% considered to be the working and middle class don’t get the same government privileges as the 1%”, said Vizcardo. “The 1% are paying less in taxes, get tax breaks and the banks take government’s money.”
Some professors support the movement. Anthropology professor Mary Cameron saw the Oct. 4 protest on her way to get coffee. “I agree with the views expressed by the Occupy Wall Street protesters’ views, also expressed by some of our students.”
Social work professor Keith Platt supports the basic ideas of the Occupy movement and was pleased to see student interest in it. “I heard many student concerns and expressed my own views. I hope that the movement gets bigger so politicians will have to take notice.”
The response from student clubs has been less enthusiastic. Occupy FAU has been trying to get support from the FAU College Republicans (FAUCR) and FAU College Democrats (FAUCD), but neither group has fully committed.
“It would be nice if a group could bring that message here,” said FAUCD President Boris Bastidas. “I have heard about some occupy events in the area. As for Occupy FAU, I’m not sure if they’re serious or trying to build something. It’s cool that they’re trying to reach out to the area, but is it a real movement or a fad?”
According to Bastidas, Occupy FAU members invited the FAUCD to the Oct. 13 protest, but Bastidas didn’t go. “We haven’t supported them officially. We may work with them on events in the future, but at this time we’ve made no such commitment.”
FAUCR Secretary Jeff Arnold posted a video of Occupy FAU on Youtube.com with the comment, “Occupy movement shows how immature and mobbish they are with this display of thuggery and mischief.”
After the video was posted, an Occupy FAU member spoke at an FAUCR meeting.
“While CR is not officially supporting the movement, some members expressed interest and asked a few questions and had a brief discussion,” said Vizcardo.
The UP tried contacting Arnold and the FAUCR multiple times, but neither have responded as of press time.
Bastidas was with Arnold when he recorded the group and responded, “My concern is that the Occupy movement has a strong and serious message, and I get worried that these kinds of incidents might make people think the movement is chaotic instead of being attracted to its most serious message.”
“We are all in this together. It’s about what affects us as students … We’re raising awareness about Occupy FAU and building power for this movement that has occupied colleges all over,” said Vizcardo.
Occupy FAU and other groups across the country inspired by Occupy Colleges has planned a protest during the first week of November. By then, Vizcardo said they will have a list of demands. As of press time, the date, time and location have yet to be determined.