- John NicholsWashington correspondent for The Nation magazine. He maintains the blog, “The Beat,” at TheNation.com.
- Rana JaleelPhD candidate in the Program in American Studies at New York University and a teaching assistant in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis.
- Jeff Smithassistant professor of politics and advocacy, The New School.
Among the many Occupy protests throughout New York City yesterday was a rally that attracted more than a thousand students to Union Square, a public park with a long history of political demonstrations. During a march out of the park, hundreds of people thronged into the street and attempted to occupy a New School building. We speak with a New York University student participating in the march and a New School professor who has incorporated the Occupy movement into his curriculum as “a prism through which to view a lot of broader social issues this semester.” We also talk to The Nation correspondent John Nichols, who says, “I don’t think that a year ago anybody would have predicted that on a cold, rainy day in November 2011 you would have thousands and thousands of young people out on the streets in New York City and in cities across the country. Something has changed.” [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: Music from Foley Square last night here in New York City, where tens of thousands of people gathered to mark the two-month anniversary of the Occupy movement. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan Gonzalez.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, among the many Occupy protests throughout New York City yesterday was a rally that attracted more than a thousand students to Union Square. During a march out of the park, hundreds of people thronged into the streets and attempted to occupy a New School University building.
JEFF SMITH: My name is Jeff Smith. I’m an assistant professor of politics and advocacy at Milano, which is the public policy graduate program at the New School.
RENÉE FELTZ: Can you tell us what you saw happen here today and what’s going on?
JEFF SMITH: OK. Well, there were a mass of young people, I think a lot of the New School students that came down Fifth Avenue here on their way to marching to Union Square. A number of the students occupied the New School Study Center here and have evacuated—the school has evacuated the students and staff who work at the Study Center. I’m teaching a course right now called “Power, Strategy and Social Change,” and so we’ve been really using the Occupy movement as sort of a prism through which to view a lot of broader social issues this semester. And sure, student debt is a serious concern of a lot of them.
RANA JALEEL: Rana Jaleel, and I’m a graduate student, employee at New York University. I’m here today because the higher education system at particularly private universities like NYU have really deep ties to Wall Street. Our board of trustees are the same people who precipitated and also benefited from the financial collapse. John Paulson, for example, has a building named after him, after he donated $20 million to NYU. This is money that he received—or it’s money that possibly came from the approximately $5 billion that he made in the subprime mortgage crisis. So, we want—I’m here basically to talk about those kind of connections and show the discrepancy between the people who run the university and the people that it’s educating, and the difference between their future and ours, which is pretty vast.
JOHN NICHOLS: Hi, this is John Nichols from The Nation magazine. There’s parallel things that are happening across the country today. There are substantial demonstrations in cities in every corner of the United States. And I think that actually Occupy is making a pivotal turn at this point. There was an awful lot of focus on maintaining a space in Zuccotti Park, and that was important, but what’s happening now is exactly what you want to happen with a movement. It’s said, “OK, you don’t want us in this park? Great, we’ll go everywhere.” And we’re seeing it. I don’t think that a year ago anybody would have predicted that on a cold, rainy day in November 2011 you would have thousands and thousands of young people out on the streets in New York City and in cities across the country. Something has changed. And so, we journalists ought to be out here paying close attention to it.
PROTESTERS: We are the 99 percent! We are the 99 percent! We are the 99 percent! We are the 99 percent! We are the 99 percent!