MANCHESTER, New Hampshire — Some 40 Occupy New Hampshire members camped out in downtown Veterans Park downtown for five days this October. As in New York, Oakland, and in cities around the country, the police finally decided to evict the 99 percenters.
But unlike in those cities, the protesters went quietly, walking out in a neat single-file line. Only five members of the most polite Occupy group in the country faced arrest.
Occupy New Hampshire has been running a kind of experiment on the polite end of the often raucous new movement, and it’s not working. The small organization had a big opportunity as the state is flooded with media and politicians in the run-up to the primary. But the actions that they’ve been planning for months haven’t made a the splash organizers had hoped — largely because it’s avoiding the conflict and, at times, clashes with police on which the movement has fed.
Members of the Occupy New Hampshire team based in Manchester have been planning around the primary since the fall. They’re the ones who mic-checked President Obama at an event November. The primaries could have shaped up as an excellent chance to funnel media attention from the campaigns onto their core issue — inequality — but apart from their “bird-dogging” of presidential candidates on the trail this past week, the protests haven’t gotten much play.
“We work within the rules that are around here,” occupier Michael Grosse told us last week. When BuzzFeed met the occupiers in Manchester, protester Ken Jaggard gave us a high five because he liked the BuzzFeed headline “Occupiers Target New Hampshire Primary, Politely.”
ONH is a tiny organization — fifteen people attend nightly General Assemblies, a “100 percent increase from two months ago,” according to organizer Mark Provost — and their most successful actions have involved only a few people. Provost successfully shook up Mitt Romney by asking him tough questions at a town hall, and three members of Occupy Keene hijacked a Rick Santorum event. But every time they’ve attempted a larger-scale protest over the last week, the media has ignored them.
A “Funeral For the American Dream” outside the Republican candidates’ debate at St. Anselm’s College turned into a marching band procession down the school’s driveway as occupiers carried an actual coffin (containing the American dream). As campus cops told the group to move to the sidewalk, a protester quipped “Or you’ll put us in one of these, huh?” pointing to the coffin. The cop said, “No, we’ll put you in handcuffs.”
The occupiers went to the sidewalk without complaint.
In Manchester this past weekend, an Occupy protester, Rebecca Burton, got into a physical altercation with a Newt Gingrich aide.
Her first stop: the police, not the group of chanting protesters outside the town hall where Gingrich was speaking.
Occupy the New Hampshire still has a chance to finish strong; tomorrow is the primary. But the plans are as mannerly as ever. An “Occupy NH Wins the Primary!” party will be held in downtown Manchester, where protesters can “potluck, order BBQ from KC’s rib shack, etc” as the Republican primary vote continues undisrupted.
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