Occupy LA at GCC Holds Rally at Plaza Vaquero

Lillian Wu

Occupy LA at GCC marched through Plaza Vaquero in solidarity with the national day of action and national student strike day on Nov. 17.

After meeting near the first floor cafeteria at 12:30 p.m., several members carried the long poster they had created for the event which said Occupy LA at GCC Rally. They marched to the front of the San Rafael Building where they chanted “Drop tuition, not bombs” and “Solidarity with Berkeley.”

One member, Leah Setaghian, called out “Show me what democracy looks like!” with a megaphone and the other members responded back in unison with “This is what democracy looks like!” Some of the 11 members raised yellow posters with the words “Democracy is not an auction. Reform is our only option!” above their heads, which they also chanted.

Setaghian explained that a week before the rally, nonviolent protesters were being attacked by police at UC Berkeley after they joined arms. The Occupy movement called a national strike day where students across the nation can protest in solidarity with Berkeley students, against police brutality and for Occupy goals.

“It is basically to honor the Berkeley students who were attacked by police when they were just linking arms,” Setaghian said. “They were told by the chancellor of the school [Robert Birgeneau] that police have the right to break that up with violent force.”

Luke Ponnet, history major, wants students to know that Occupy LA at GCC is a civil rights and civil liberties group that is promoting the Constitution and Constitutional rights to speak out against government when it is overstepping its bounds. It is also a group that is dissatisfied with the way corporate greed has infiltrated the government.

“We need to get our voices heard,” he said. “We need to have our cause understood by the student body. If we don’t have a student body, we are nothing. We are the masses. We are the 99 percent.”

While the rally went on, the Troy Davis Band performed during the same time. The music boomed from the loudspeakers and across the campus overpowering some of the group’s rally cries.

The Occupy group chanted during the band’s intervals and occasionally when they sang. A small crowd gathered in front of them, while others stood at a distance taking photos.

The group staked a spot on the sidewalk leading to the plaza for the remainder of the rally. They cheered when an Associated Student representative yelled, “We also have Occupy LA over there!”

“We got a shout out by the student body, which is awesome,” Ponnet said. “That was really cool to have the student body actually know that we were there.”

Jessica Farrell, the main point of contact for the group, said she was there to march in support of the students of Berkeley. Farrell and Sarah Gould are both the heads of the events committee for Occupy LA at GCC.

“I am here to be a part of an educated group of people who want to be a part of something and although I have defiance inside of me from childhood, I have learned to grow out of that and know the right and wrong way of doing things,” Farrell said. “I feel that I want to be part of a group that will give respect and not be cocky in the sense that we are doing the right thing or the wrong thing.”

After the rally ended, the members moved to the San Gabriel Building for an informal meeting where they discussed the protest and future events.

“It was not as powerful as I wanted it to be,” Ponnet said. “Mostly because the students at GCC were having a musical rally, which was good. The music was awesome, but we couldn’t overpower the DJ or the PA system. In the future, if we do a rally, we would want to make sure that we don’t schedule a rally around another event especially one with a PA system.”

Ponnet joined Occupy LA at GCC after he heard the college had meetings and has been involved for about a month. He has participated in the Occupy movement in Downtown LA, Occidental College and Pasadena.

“I really feel for the movement especially the student’s concerns about the movement and unemployment,” Setaghian, a political science and history major, said. “We are about to enter the workforce, but there is nothing out there for us. That was a big thing for me.”

Nov. 17 was declared National Student Strike Day by Occupy Colleges. A large rally was planned at Cal State Dominguez Hills where various colleges planned to meet. Many in the group had classes in the afternoon and were unable to attend.

For Farrell, who is an anthropology and psychology major, school is important. As much as she would have loved to join, she realized she could not miss class since she is trying to transfer from GCC.

Farrell first heard about Occupy LA at GCC after Gould approached and asked if she had heard about the movement. She researched about it and attended the meeting.

“I felt like this is the movement that could open the doors to all other movements in the sense that it could give people the power instead of the corporations having the power,” she said. “It would be enough to move forth in smaller things.”