An Occupier from New York in Havana

July 1, 2012 | Print Print |

By Regina Cano

Easton: “My responsibility is to stop my government from oppressing Cuba and the rest of the world.”

HAVANA TIMES — Easton and I met at a community center for children. His “indignation” was the motive for this conversation, and despite the “games” of understanding that we had with the two languages, it was able to happen. Thanks again to his friend Erica. Most was personally and we completed it via e-mail. And here I leave you with him:

My name is Easton Smith. I was born in Salt Lake City, Utah. I am 22 years old. I live in New York and go to Sarah Lawrence College. I was in Cuba as a student for four months at the end of 2011. It is difficult as a U.S. American to come to Cuba, and this University program offered me the opportunity: to live here for four months.

PART I

Occupy Wall Street         

I remember how before every time the government would do something bad in the world big peaceful demonstrations would be organized against the imperialist wars of the United States. The press and the people didn’t talk about the majority of these efforts and nothing changed much through them.

We would be in the street yelling with a lot of people, but there wouldn’t be a response from the government, or from those who were walking on the street near us. And so, I don’t think we will win this fight with the demonstrations, it’s not sufficient to stop something as big as this government.

There would be thousands of people in the street, and after all of it everyone would go back to their house.

With Occupy…it’s completely different. Afterward the protest, everyone goes back to the site, to the tents in the park to analyze together: “What happened with the demonstration? What happened with the police? Who did they arrest?” and “how are we going to get them out?” and “tomorrow”….

In Occupy someone plays the guitar and another knows about economics, and it’s all shared. Some people want to do this action or this demonstration. Some want to cook for the people in the streets or talk about a certain situation.

They create a new society inside of the violent, capitalist society of New York. And this is very powerful. Everyone makes what they want in the same place and with basically the same objective: change the world, the government of the United States.

Easton

Right now if some young person wants to see what is happening and is frustrated like me- with the economic situation and everything- they can go the Occupy encampment…and there are many open arms waiting to teach and learn together about what they are going to do.

Many young people have been frustrated and have seen the fall of the economy and how the Obama administration handles the crises, the administration that held so much hope. Almost nothing changed and the youth have reached a critical point. They realize that the system doesn’t function for the people.

The frustration has been rising since the crises, and before. Many hopes were destroyed in the last two years and with the war and the bad economy. All of the wealth is in the hands of the bankers, and nothing for the majority of the people.

Occupy…is bigger, not because it was organized so much better than before when no one was coming. It’s not just a protest; it’s a synthesis of many things in the current historical moment.

I have been in contact with many compañeros there and I don’t think that anyone knows exactly how to identify the people who were there first.

Right now it matters less than before if they are anarchists, if they are communists. I believe that the anarchists were the first people to start Occupy Wall Street that were camping first, doing the powerful actions.

It seems that this is because their ideological leaning is more towards direct action and less towards “mass” politics. I think there are many anarchists that are organizing more than before.

Occupy… is important for the number of new people that have not organized, or participated in anything in their lives and are organizing there, learning and acting. Just before I came to Cuba, in New York I went a demonstration against the NATO intervention in Libya, in Times Square, and there were about 10 people against this war in all of New York, New York with 10 million people.

To me it doesn’t matter much who are Anarchists or Communists, because the most important is that there are more people in this movement, in the Left in New York, in all of the world, but in the United States specifically.

POLITICAL REPRESSION

More than 4000 people have been arrested; the majority has been let out on bail and is awaiting trial. They participated in peaceful actions, like occupations of public places and marches in the streets.

The movement has committees to give legal help and funds to these activists. Still now, they have to go to court to pay some fines. But the state repression is rising, with more police and more serious charges, people accused of felonies, used for killers and rapists, for the peaceful actions of blocking the streets during an action.

Nobody, luckily, has died in the Occupy movement or in their direct actions. Many have been injured by the police, with injuries from the batons and gas canisters.

Feedback. The World

I think that all of this had a big impact, but specifically Tahrir Square, in Egypt, where everyone united to protest the government.

Easton and Erica

The press talked a lot about this revolution, and put many images of it on television. They were there, maintaining the pressure on the government.

I think this action was a big inspiration for Occupy…because it’s a similar idea.

I think that the people in the United States are part of this world movement. Occupy Wall Street also the revolutions of the Arab world are part of the same movement. The whole world is changing.

AFTER

Now they are not camping in the majority of the cities in the United States. The police violently removed them, evicted them, and arrested them. With the evictions in the big cities, there is confusion about the direction of the movement.

And so, the movement has to decide a new path, occupy a new place or something, because there is no leadership and there is nothing like a main document that dictates what the movement should do in this situation.

It seems difficult to me to choose a new path for the movement. There are many different politics among the protestors. Some are anti-imperialists and some are not against the wars.

Some are Democratic Party supporters and are going to work for this party in the next year, for Obama and the system. They are going to try to make a movement that functions as a tool to get more votes.

And some of us have no interest in this idea. We have no hope in the Democratic Party. Now, I think what we need is to grow in numbers. After we can talk about politics.

I came to study in Cuba before Occupy… my observations came to me from news from friends and my thoughts after having been an organizer with Brandworkers in New York for some years, besides what I learned upon returning to the US.

To be continued…

 


What's your opinion?

  • Moses

    Let everyone keep in mind that if Easton were Cuban and wanted to do exactly the same things in protest against the Cuban government in Cuba that he is a ble to do against his own government, he would be in prison for a long time. He, and other leftists like him, are well to try to change the course of America toward a fairer and more inclusive future. But PLEEEEEASE, don’t use Cuba as the model. Not until it is possible for 20 middle-age women dressed in white holding daffodils can peaceably walk together to church on Sunday without being harassed or arrested.

    • Luis

      PLEEEEEASE, read the article before posting. Nowhere Easton even suggests to “use Cuba as the model”.

  • larry

    We assume your talking about the ladies in white

  • ruth warner

    Easton is so young he believes american history /politics starts with the Obama administration. I would like to hear from Easton after he reads the history of his own country.

  • Joanna Crell-Arias

    I welcome Easton, his interest, his energy and his heart to my beloved Cuba, country of my mother and familia. I am Cuban American , or vice versa, with family that I visit and both friends and devotion toward making a viable working exchange between my (our) two countries. Knowing history is indeed important, people learn what they learn as they are touched by another culture and grow hungry to know the deeper story. The occupy movement has roots in the past, and it will be some time before it can find the soil to again grow and make a nourishing “plant ” for people to receive fruit from. It is so true that the style that Occupiers embrace would not be welcome for the most part in Cuba by the government, but then things are changing there too. it is painful. For now, to throw Democracy away in the US would be the most tragic mistake ever. To go backwards with another republican regime would destroy any progress that has begun toward a new era of relationship with Cuba, lost time that Cubans and Americans suffer through. Most Americans have no idea what is being lost, and it is incredible to me that any Cubans living here would want to keep the insane embargo, as if that is a policy that has done anything but hurt us all. I know there is a corruption that is now embedded and it will be quite difficult to tear it out. I invite Easton to visit with us in our family homes, when we are in Boyeros,(ciudad Habana) or Los Negros in Oriente (STG) My desire now is to help people who have trouble traveling because of disability or age visit Cuba, there is no reason to embargo travel or trade, our economy would greatly benefit and opportunities to grow our awareness and allegiances abound. Want to make the world better? Reach out, offer HOPE.