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St. Lawrence students join Occupy movement

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CANTON — Occupy Wall Street has reached the north country.

On Wednesday, St. Lawrence University was one of 75 colleges to see students demonstrating as part of Occupy Colleges, an offshoot of the national Occupy Wall Street movement. The nonpartisan movement, loosely organized to protest social, political and economic inequalities stemming from corporate greed, was represented at St. Lawrence by about 100 students and several dozen handmade signs:

“We are the future.”

“Sometimes I can’t sleep at night worrying if this will be my last year @ SLU.”

“Sick of hypocrits (sic).”

“I just want people to listen to me.”

According to one of the event’s organizers, senior Jordan A. Pescrillo, the students assembled at noon and marched through the college’s student center before proceeding to the business office, dining hall and president’s office. Not affiliated with any campus club or organization, the students read part of the Occupy Wall Street “constitution,” strummed guitars, waved an American flag and swung a hula hoop.

“We really just want people to start talking about ‘is the status quo of big business healthy? What sort of problems does it cause?’” said senior Alexander P. Epstein, a student demonstrator. “We’re just trying to have a respectful dialogue about it because in the past there’s been a lot of polarization.”

Wednesday’s demonstration included freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors as well as international students, with some professors bringing their classes to view the chanting and marching.

According to Ms. Pescrillo, Global Studies Professor John Collins has agreed to present several talks about solidarity movements in light of the student protests.

Although Occupy Wall Street does not have clear goals or political motives, many of the signs at St. Lawrence referred to concerns about student debt and being underrepresented in government. As part of the protest, the students also took pictures of themselves holding up their handwritten protest signs to post online and spread their messages.

“This is an opportunity for students to learn about their place in the global community,” said Macreena A. Doyle, a spokeswoman for the university, noting that St. Lawrence was one of relatively few universities across the country to host an Occupy Colleges march. “I’m actually quite proud of our students for taking the initiative to be part of that group. … When I saw them, a lot of them were spending the time providing information to other students, so we certainly are all supportive of that.”

Ms. Pescrillo agreed Wednesday that sharing information was one of the biggest aspects of the event. Though there are no concrete plans for further marches on campus, she said that she and the other students plan to keep spreading the Occupy Wall Street ethos on campus.

“People just want to know what it’s been all about,” she said. “For the most part it’s been pretty positive because people feel like they can just talk.”

She paused.

“Some people think Occupy Wall Street is dumb, and that’s OK, too.”

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