On Sunday, Georgetown Occupy organized a teach-in in Red Square, inviting speakers of various backgrounds to spread awareness about income inequality. Held in response to the Wall Street Training Boot Camp taking place on campus for aspiring investment bankers and other members of the financial sector, the Occupy event also attracted students from American University and members of the greater D.C. community.
The day of events included a discussion of the dangers of Wall Street risk-taking, income inequality, a symbolic cleansing of the American flag, and a Georgetown Chimes appearance that started as a counter-protest but ended as a group dialogue on Jesuit ideals.
Georgetown Solidarity Committee kicked off the event by explaining how the University can enact a policy of socially responsible investment by dissociating itself from undiscerning corporations as well as by supporting corporations that do promote the greater good.
The first two guest speakers of the day, Sarah Anderson of the progressive think tank the Institute for Policy Studies and Bart Naylor, a financial policy advocate at the consumer interest lobby Public Citizen, responded most directly to the Wall Street Training Bootcamp across campus. Anderson, while acknowledging that certain financial sector jobs are vitally important, asserted that Wall Street has grown entirely too large. The system of rewarding risky ventures and high-frequency computerized trades, she said, could cause another financial collapse.
Naylor addressed Wall Street’s relationship with legislators. He reported that for every lobbyist on the side of the consumer, the financial sector has 150, the type of disparity that accounts in part for the power of banks.
Rory O’Sullivan of Young Invincibles spoke next about the effects of economic inequality on youth. “Young people are a canary in the mine for the ailments in our society,” O’Sullivan said, citing education debt and unemployment as troubling topics.
Later, Justice and Peace Studies professor Barbara Wien led the group in an activity focused on the history of collective action, followed by a discussion about the Occupy movement’s productivity led by Zach Zill of Occupy D.C.
Though it was approved by consensus, as is customary procedure for Occupy movements, Wien’s next act was perhaps the most controversial of the whole event: a symbolic cleansing of the American flag to wash away “atrocities” committed against individuals in the United States and around the world.
Wien emphasized that her actions were meant lovingly, to “reclaim democracy, fairness, the Constitution.”
“We have to protect the Constitution,” she insisted.
Professor Eli McCarthy, another Justice and Peace professor, followed Wien with a discussion of Jesuit values and their implications for the Occupy movement. In the middle of McCarthy’s presentation, however, the event was interrupted by a group of Chimes alumni singing “America the Beautiful” in the archway in Red Square. Though it began as a type of counter-protest, the Occupy group joined them, and they all went on to sing the Georgetown fight song together.
Later, the Chimes joined in the discussion led by Professor McCarthy about Jesuit ideals and social justice, and the group grew to the biggest it was all day—nearly 50 participants.
Another student behind the event, Rachel Nethery (COL ’12), was pleased that Georgetown Occupy’s outreach had been effective.
“We’ve had a strong constant presence,” she said.
Photo: Lucia He