Ithaca College students united in solidarity to participate in a campus-wide walk out yesterday to protest financial injustice and corporate greed as part of the Occupy Ithaca College movement.
Almost 200 students organized in the academic quad armed with signs and cheers, saying, “We are the 99 percent,” which repeats the national Occupy Wall Street movement’s rallying cry.
As the protesters waited for more students to arrive at the Free Speech Rock, those already gathered marched around the grassy patch just outside the Campus Center.
Hana Raskin, the event’s media liaison, said she had no doubt that the number of students at the event would increase as time went on.
“It’s still early,” Raskin said. “This has the possibility to really make history. They say this could be one of the largest organized student protests because it’s going on in over 150 campuses around the country.”
Students, faculty and staff attended the rally, with some professors following their classes out to join the rally.
Kathleen Pongrace, a sophomore who attended the event, said she was amazed to find her entire class and her professor following her out to the quad.
“That was a really incredible experience, leading this group of 20 to 25 people over here and seeing this mass of people already here already chanting, already marching and already organized,” she said.
The protesters organized around the Free Speech Rock amid cheers of “The people united will never be divided!” and “Hey hey, ho ho, corporate greed has got to go!”
Senior Gabe Alvarez-Millard climbed up on to the Free Speech Rock and was the first protester to publicly address the crowd, arguing against an unequal distribution of wealth.
“There’s a financial injustice occurring, and nobody knows what to do with it,” he said. “But what we do know is that voting has not been effective thus far. We need to gather this majority and show that we won’t take this bureaucratic ineffectiveness anymore.”
Before stepping down, Alvarez-Millard helped to outline the purpose of Occupy Wall Street by stating that unity was currently its main purpose.
“There is no necessary agenda,” he said. “The point is to gather the majority. As college students, we have a very unique opportunity to do this and a very unique perspective. If we gather together, hopefully some change will occur.”
In addition to Alvarez-Miller Tom Shevory, professor of politics; Michael Smith, associate professor of history; and Bob Proehl, community outreach coordinator of Buffalo Street Books, addressed the crowd.
Smith said economic disparities began when Wall Street bankers figured out that they could beat the financial system and then created their own system to make a profit.
“Occupy Wall Street is about several things,” Smith said. “It’s about equity, it’s about fairness, it’s about accountability, and it’s about justice.”
Junior Ren Ostry, who spoke at the event and assisted in its organization, said that it was a completely leaderless movement, and everyone that was there took part equally.
“We are honored to be a part of a private institution whose administration not only honors the demands of its students’ population, but to have professors that really nurture our environment of education and support these global movements,” Ostry said. “Ithaca College is a place unlike any other, and we’re so grateful to have these professors here.”
A General Assembly will be held at noon Tuesday in front on the Campus Center quad.