Noelle Swan

March of the Zombies: Occupy Boston Protesters Parade Through Beacon Hill on Halloween in an Effort to Make Their Voices Heard

Noelle Swan
New England Post
November 1, 2011
 

A herd of zombies gathered on Boston Common on Monday. Their goal: engage Boston area students in the Occupy Movement and highlight economic issues that affect college students, such as high tuition rates and student loan debt.

As the small group milled through Beacon Hill, one resident stepped out onto his front stoop to watch the students pass. “Honestly, with all the costumes, I thought it was a Halloween thing at first,” he said.

Therein lies the danger of creative protest, says Sarah Sobieraj, sociology professor from Tufts University.

“The challenge becomes making sure that the creativity is also communicative,” she said in a telephone interview before the march. “If the point is to offer some sort of social critique, that critique needs to be clear to whoever sees the march. If they’re trying to have fun for themselves, then that’s a great thing to do,” she added.

The Occupy Movement as a whole continually faces the unique challenge of keeping participants engaged — and making sure the public is paying attention — over weeks and potentially months.

John Carroll, a professor of Mass Communications at Boston University, said that maintaining media interest is vital to the movement. “If there is no media coverage, Occupy Wall Street doesn’t exist,” he told New England Post before the march.

“The culture of today’s media is that everything is entertainment,” Carroll said. “They’re competing for space on the public radar screen so they have to use these kinds of events to make a splash,” he added.

Stephen Squibb, a Harvard graduate student who works on the Occupy Boston media team, said that in Boston, getting local media attention has not been much of a challenge. He said that he responds to “some really aggressive and untrue charges” on a daily basis. He referred to a recent media story about potential health code violations at the campsite which later proved to be unfounded, then added, “I keep thinking to myself, if only I had somebody doing magic tricks or something, I’d have something to keep these people occupied so they wouldn’t have to invent stories about us.”

Sobieraj said that this is a perpetual challenge for social movements. “News takes either a crime story model where it’s about arrests, or a local color collage of characters,” she said. Neither, she added, accurately represent the group or the issues they seek to highlight.

The Occupy movement does not have a simplified message that can be distributed to the press. The movement itself represents a discussion of complex economic and political issues.

“This is a movement about conversation and dialogue and collaboration and collectivity,” Squibb said. “These things don’t really survive the translation into the mainstream media,” he said. “I think that’s one of the reasons that it’s existing in the first place, that we don’t actually have an outlet for this kind of serious conversation that needs to go on.”

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