The New Occupation

By Marielle Mondon
December 9, 2012

When the Occupy Wall Street movement celebrated its 1-year anniversary in Zuccotti Park this past September, many critics left unsure of how to define the movement’s lasting impact. Some said it would be an asterisk in history, if even that, while others felt a brief rejuvenation of the excitement sparked in 2011. What the excitement stood for, however, or what action the Occupiers would make, remained a question. The anniversary weekend went by in a fashion typical of the movement—full of arrests, demonstrations, sing-a-longs, chants, costumes—but when the weekend passed, it was over.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy it seemed overnight that Occupy Wall Street had regrouped to form Occupy Sandy, a city-wide relief effort aiming to help storm victims. Like the groups in Zuccotti Park, Occupy Sandy volunteers have no one leader, no central figure, no defining face of the movement. Unlike in Zuccotti Park, however, the volunteers have replaced their rallies and cries of anger with cooking and cleaning.

Coordinated largely on InterOccupy.net, community members soon found spaces throughout the city to serve as the main distribution hubs to collect and disperse donations. St. Jacobi Lutheran Church, in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park, saw hundreds of volunteers come in and out of the space daily as Occupy Sandy overtook its basement, office, and worship space for four weeks. From St. Jacobi and several other hubs, Occupiers came to organize and deliver donations to posts in the most storm-inflicted areas.

“This completely changes everything about Occupy,” said one volunteer, Mike Smith, 26, while sitting in one of St. Jacobi’s vacant pews. “Nobody can call it a joke anymore.”

After Occupy Sandy was evicted from St. Jacobi, volunteers were sent to the Church of St. Luke & St. Matthew in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. There volunteers with or without kitchen experience prepared meals for delivery to the Rockaways or Brighton Beach. Volunteers made pop-up relief stands in inflicted areas daily, serving food to locals and offering their supply of diapers, toilet paper, batteries, and other goods.

One Sunday evening at the pop-up in Sheepshead Bay, a group of volunteers accompanied the locals as they tore up the floor and walls of a damaged house. The locals offered the volunteers a splash of whiskey in their tea to make the day go by. One obliged, 23-year-old Yolanda Strasser, and the group carried on just before 5 p.m. when it was time to clear up the Occupy Sandy stand and head to a group meeting.

“I hate to leave like this,” Strasser said as she left the damaged house. “But people will be around all week to finish the job.”

One Response to “The New Occupation”

  1. […] The final product of my photojournalism class. Over the course of seven weeks I photographed the goings-on of Occupy Sandy and spent time with volunteers working in Sunset Park, Bay Ridge, and Sheepshead Bay. Please check out the amazing work of my classmates as well; we all picked different post-Hurricane subjects and some are truly phenomenal to look at. © Marielle Mondon 2012 © Marielle Mondon 2012 […]

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