Occupy Saratoga brings Wall Street protests to Saratoga Springs: Members encourage student participation from the College

Posted by Julia Leef

For the past three weeks, the recently formed Occupy Saratoga group has protested on Saturdays in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, this week in front of Bank of America in downtown Saratoga Springs.

The first meeting for Occupy Saratoga was held on Oct. 18 at the Saratoga Springs library, which about 30 people attended, said Kathleen Bartholomay, a member of the group and a volunteer for the Outreach Working Group, an organization that works to increase awareness among the Web community.

"It was a mixed group politically," Bartholomay said. "We took turns speaking and listening to each other. It is a sort of community-building, really."

These protests are part of the larger movement inspired by the actions of protesters at Occupy Wall Street, a protest against "the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporation over the democratic process" that began on Sept. 17 in Manhattan's Financial District and has since spread to more than 100 cities in the U.S., according to its website.

"There's no one demand or anything, but I think the corporate takeover of the country has changed what people think about in our country," Bartholomay said. "Things haven't changed enough where we feel confident that things are going to go in a way that makes our society a happier place to live in."

Occupy Saratoga works with other protest groups, including Veterans for Peace and the Saratoga Peace Alliance, and in conjunction with the local MoveOn group, which is dedicated to bringing the American people back into the political process. The Saratoga Peace Alliance has protested outside of the U.S. Post Office in downtown Saratoga Springs for years, and Occupy Saratoga joined the members at this location in its first two weeks.

Bartholomay said that much of what the group protests against is applicable to the lives of students, especially after college. "We're really looking for some Skidmore students to come in and participate," she said, adding that two students looking to find more information on Occupy Saratoga came to a MoveOn meeting at the Saratoga Springs library.

"I'm sure there are kids who are going to have trouble getting jobs and have a lot of loans and issues involving those things," she said. "It's just really dangerous for students, there's no way out from under those loans."

Members of Occupy Saratoga ask people to close their checking and savings accounts at Bank of America and at other corporate mega-banks because such corporations, Bartholomay said, do not pay taxes to the U.S. Treasury but benefit from the people's taxpayer bail out.

"We are asking people to move their money to local banks and/or credit unions," Bartholomay said. "Students in particular might get involved on the basis of future employment concerns and future student loan debt concerns. These are very real and very serious concerns for at least some of Skidmore's students."

Bartholomay also suggested that students shop locally to support local businesses, especially for the upcoming holidays.

"We have been doing outreach into other areas of the town to elicit more support, such as marching to Skidmore and contacting local business owners," Bartholomay said, in reference to a peace march on Oct. 22. "Our protests have been well-attended with about 25 to 50 people of all ages."

Occupy Saratoga also collects winter clothing at its weekly protests for members of Occupy Albany who sleep outdoors in the winter, and delivers these items on Saturday afternoons, following the General Assembly meetings.

Students and community members can learn more at the group's General Assembly meetings at the Saratoga Springs library, the times of which can be found on the group's Facebook page. Occupy Saratoga also provides additional information through handouts at its protests and its pro-board.

"We like to live in a place where we're doing constructive things, working for ourselves and working for society at the same time," Bartholomay said. "We take this stuff very seriously. It can ruin lives at a young stage, and there's no need for that."

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