By Rebecca Nussbaum
“People and the environment before profit” Jackson Hudgins’ ’12 sign read as he joined hundreds of protesters outside of Los Angeles City Hall. Hudgins wasn’t the only Harvard-Westlake student to be inspired by the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations sweeping the nation.
About a week after Angelenos brought the “occupy” movement downtown on Oct. 1, Hudgins and Steven Ring ’12 went to check out the local protestors.
“Everybody was collaborative,” Hudgins said. “People would come up and say, ‘What do you stand for?’ and that would spark a conversation.”
Although Hudgins enjoyed exchanging political ideas with the demonstrators, he felt they were passionate but lacked concrete goals.
“Nobody really knew what they stood for,” he said.
Hudgins thought that the protestors’ cause was worthy but their methods were unproductive.
“If we really want to see change, I think we should run for local offices,” he said. “We should put a socialist or communist on the Santa Monica City Council. Expressions of discontent aren’t necessarily going to help anything.”
Parker Thomas ’12 had a different experience at the Occupy Wall Street demonstration in Manhattan’s financial district.
He visited New York the week after the protests began on Sept. 17, and Thomas wanted to see if the demonstrators were as extreme as the media portrayed them.
Thomas said he was surprised to find rational, mainstream people who were educated on the issues.
“The average guy at Occupy Wall Street looks like a Harvard-Westlake student,” he said. “It was kind of unfortunate in the beginning that they were portrayed as anarchists.”
After observing it firsthand, Thomas thinks that the “occupy” movement has potential to make a difference in our country’s government.
“I definitely think the movement is something that needs to happen,” he said.
“[The protests are] similar to the Vietnam War,” he said. “It could be a major turning point. It’s the kind of thing that everyone says is going to go away until it doesn’t go away, and then it makes a difference.”
Thomas said that the occupiers’ message extends past the “99%” distinction of wealth and that their demonstrations are a reaction to the inequality of opportunity in modern American society.
“The complaint is just it’s becoming more and more difficult to succeed in America,” Thomas said. “It’s not work ethic anymore. It’s just knowing the right people.”