Occupy Anchorage protestors were prepared for a late night run-in with the police last Wednesday night.
Amber Helman said that around 1 p.m. that day, police had “coffee with us,” and discussed their first amendment rights. The police told them they would be back when the park closed to review with any new protestors. From 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. the group roughly doubled from ten to around 20 people, but no police showed up.
“We are alive & the cops aren’t evicting us!” read a Facebook status on the Occupy Anchorage page at 5:36 a.m.
As of Nov. 5, protesters have occupied around Town Square Park for 15 days.
Like most city parks, the park on F and 6 street closes at 11 p.m. Protesters have maneuvered around the city ordinance by protesting on the sidewalk.
A tent with the first amendment painted in white letters appeared Oct. 29. Police wanted to clarify that afternoon that the tent cannot be used for sleeping. Helman emphasized that it is only being used for storage, and that the tent is an important symbolic gesture.
“If they tell us to take it down, they’re literally taking down our first amendment,”
About 40 people rotate duties to keep the 24/7 protest active. Helman, along with fellow protester Tim Huit, believes that there is growing participation in the movement, though for Occupy Anchorage, less people are showing up because of the cold.
“I believe there are people dedicated enough,” Huit said. “I’ve been a long term activist, I’ve worked with the homeless and what now. It’s convenient now that there’s a downtown protest to join.”
A philosophy and anthropology graduate from UAA, Huit sees Occupy Wall Street as a way to create change at a local level.
“When the sociologists and anthropologists are done studying this, they will see that for each community [occupy protests] gave a forum to local issues that haven’t been addressed yet,” he said.
A current social worker, Huit sees homelessness as one of Anchorage’s greatest problems.
Anthropologist Peter Wood disagrees. Though he has sympathy for the movement, in a Polaris lecture last Friday night in the library, Wood said he sees Occupy Wall Street largely as a performance.
“They thought they had a certain class position, and discovered that they didn’t,” Woods said.
Wood is the president of the National Association of Scholars, a former Professor of Anthropology at Boston University, and writes for the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Wood considers OWS an example of “New Anger,” a term he coined in his 2007 book “A Bee in the Mouth.”
The Institute of American Values summarized New Anger as, “The replacement of an older ethic of self-control with a new sense that public and private displays of anger are empowering and a legitimate way to pursue one’s goals.”
Wood believes the change from valuing self-restraint to self-expression occurred as philosophies like existentialism and groups like the Beats started to influence society.
“We went from a nation that treated self-control as an ideal and looked upon anger as a weakness to be mastered, to a nation in which venting anger is treated as healthy and in which public exhibitions of anger are often a source of pride to the performer and entertainment for the audience,” Wood said.
College isn’t helping.
“College is accelerated alienation,” Wood said.
By providing an overwhelming supply of certain job credentials when there is no need for them, colleges indirectly encourage dissatisfaction with the entire system.
Wood said another reason he doesn’t see much progress in the movement is because all decisions rely on total consensus.
“Can consensus be a serious model of governance outside of small groups?” Wood said.
The consensus model is made even worse, by what Wood sees as the many contradictions among the OWS participants. He cited some upscale restaurants in New York donating to protesters, which attracts some homeless. Class tensions are clearly visible when these protesters try to distance themselves from the homeless.
Regardless of whether Huit or Wood is correct, temperatures in Anchorage are dropping, and the tent still stands.