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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Brandeis student activists find solidarity behind bars

Published: October 16, 2014
Section: News

At the annual People’s Climate March in New York on Sept. 21, over 400,000 protesters joined together to advocate against climate change and corporate greed. On Sept. 22, thousands rushed to join a movement called Flood Wall Street, bringing the normal business day to a halt, as part of the campaign against corporate exploitation. Over 100 protesters were taken into custody, and several Brandeis students and alumni were among those arrested.

Naveh Halperin ’12, one of those arrested at Flood Wall Street, stated, “I decided to stay and get arrested because so many people that I loved were putting their bodies on the line for this action, I couldn’t leave. My heart was beating fast, but it felt right.”

Despite spending over nine hours in police custody, Kristina Jacobs ’15 expressed similar sentiments. She stated, “I was arrested along with some great friends and kind strangers so I felt a strong sense of solidarity and inspiration.”

Jacobs was arrested on the basis of “obstructing vehicular traffic” and “refusing to obey a lawful order to disperse.”

Flood Wall Street focused on the connection between the perpetuation of climate change and corporate greed. Over 3,000 protesters rallied at Battery Park in Lower Manhattan before marching to the steps of the New York Stock Exchange. According to the official website, participants wore blue to “represent the sea that surrounds us,” and wove in and out of traffic to constitute a collective act of nonviolent civil disobedience.

“The essential goal of this action was to shut down the exploitative corporations and institutions that are destroying our planet and injuring our communities in the name of profit accumulation,” Jacobs stated.

Abbie Goldberg ’16, who is currently taking a year off from Brandeis, was also among those arrested. She stated that Flood Wall Street was organized partially to address the limitations of the Climate March Movement. She explains, “The march had essentially no demands and suffered from being non-direct.”

Although both Jacobs and Halperin stated that the Climate March had a very positive atmosphere, Jacobs appeared to agree with Goldberg’s statement. “Although the march was very large and inspiring, it was very constricted because we had a designated path and [were] separated in by police barricades,” she said.

Goldberg explains that the march targeted the U.N. for its failure to produce binding legislation to combat what she called as catastrophic climate change. Flood Wall Street, however, undertook a more direct approach, and aimed at linking climate change to capitalism.

Speakers at the event included Naomi Klein, social activist and author of the New York Times bestseller “This Changes Everything: Capitalism v. Climate” and Chris Hedges, renowned journalist, recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, and bestselling author. Rebecca Solnit, author and activist, was also present at the event.

Summing up the main message of the protest, Jacobs said, “We are tired of an economic and political system [that] favors corporate power and profit gain over human lives and climate justice.”

Halperin recalled the worry expressed on his behalf by his parents. “My mom was extremely worried and in hysterics because I wasn’t answering my phone,” he said. His father advised him not to risk arrest. According to Halperin, merely moments after ending his phone conversation with his father, he was taken into police custody.

According to Halperin, the protesters linked arms and sat in concentric circles on Wall Street and Broadway. “Knowing that we were partaking in such a powerful experience felt extremely empowering and extremely loving. We were singing amazing songs as the police confronted us and cheered people’s names as they took them away one by one,” he stated.

Once the protesters reached Wall Street, a brief scuffle erupted with police, who pepper sprayed several people, according to Goldberg.

Despite his parents’ concern, Halperin is not dismayed by the night he spent in prison. Other than a few sexist comments, he explained that he rarely felt oppression from the NYPD officers. He even recalls conversations with the officers about controversial topics such as the legality of marijuana, stating “They had drastically different views than we did, but were willing to engage with us nonetheless!”

Taken into custody at 8 p.m., Halperin was released, along with other protesters, around 5 a.m. the next day. Students and activists greeted them upon release with bagels and hot chocolate in Chinatown.

The students who were arrested will be returning to New York for a court appointment on Oct. 27, according to Goldberg.

Halperin does not regret his arrest. In fact, he said, “I would like to get arrested more often. I have a privilege as a white male of good class standing that I can get arrested and face small consequences. I should get arrested as much as possible if it helps the movement.”