The Resistance Continues as Citizens Fight Budget Cuts
Much has been written about the future of Occupy: the movement is dead, it is not dead, it evolved into something else, it will experience a resurgence in the fall, etc. But what has received less air time are all the ways in which citizens, be they part of Occupy or not, continue to battle budget cuts in their own communities and across the country.
The blasé reception of this ongoing resistance might be explained, in part, by the decline of Occupy’s occupations. Revolution is sexy, but the quiet resistance of low-key direct action lacks Liberty Park’s flash.
Yet the resistance continues, in ways large and small.
A city in central New York is losing its top two law enforcement officers to retirement after lawmakers announced major spending cuts for the police department. Auburn Police Chief Gary Giannotta and Deputy Chief Thomas Murphy both announced their retirement plans this week in response to the city council’s plans to slash $400,000 from the department’s budget.
Giannotta said the cuts to his department will be detrimental to public safety.
In another example, NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice lobby, and the NETWORK Education Program organized 14 nuns to ride in a “Nuns on the Bus” vehicle through nine states to protest federal budget cuts proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).
NETWORK emphasizes that Ryan’s budget will have a detrimental effect on struggling families, and cites tax breaks for the wealthy and decreased funding for health insurance programs for low-income individuals as two of the biggest problems with the proposal.
In a country where citizens are oftentimes failed by traditional institutions (even the Catholic Church has criticized the Nuns on the Bus), direct action by these nuns has proven to be pivotal in their communities.
“The nuns have always reached out and provided programs for low-income groups,” said Karen Krause, social justice chairman of Toledo Area Jobs with Justice and Interfaith Worker Justice Coalition, part of a national network that advocates for the rights of working individuals.
“The Ryan budget breaks the circle of protection around the poor and vulnerable,” Ms. Krause said.
Nearly 100 students, parents, and coaches gathered in Monroeville, Pennsylvania Monday evening to protest budget cuts that could eliminate some sports.
“I’m concerned that the school board is cutting middle school athletics; I’m concerned that they’re cutting academic programs; I’m concerned they are cutting field trips,” said Aaron Hajduk, a parent, to KDKA. “I think this is a critical time in a child’s life.”
The most dramatic proposals include entirely eliminating all athletic programs at the middle school. Other proposals include firing teachers, and cutting back on field trips, buses, and uniforms.
“It’s a failure no matter; it’s like when you build a house, you’ve got to have a good foundation. There’s our foundation that’s going down,” said Cliff Thompson, of the high school football coaching staff. “I’ve been coaching in high school for 35 years and I’ve never seen it like this.”
In Oakland, protesters at Lakeview School invoked the spirit of Occupy as they entered the second week of camping out at the elementary campus in an attempt to stop the district from closing it.
KQED reports that several hundred people marched this past weekend in support of the protesters who accuse the school board of voting for the closure (along with four other elementary schools) despite the school’s rising test scores and high level of community involvement.
Activists say the plan will backfire and create instability, driving more families from district-run schools.
Families at Lazear Elementary, another school slated for closure, applied to convert their school into an independently run charter in order to keep it open, a request the Alameda County Board of Education approved on appeal last week.
Joel Velasquez, whose children attended Lakeview, said the group has no plans to leave the area. The effort has drawn support from local businesses and residents sympathetic with the cause, he said. On Tuesday, passers-by brought coffee and bagels. A sign on the Grand Lake Theater marquee, questioning the school board’s decision, remained up.
“It’s been very inspiring,” Velasquez said.
© 2012 The Nation