â€œItâ€™s not â€˜Occupy Wall Street;â€™ itâ€™s not â€˜Occupy Denver;â€™ itâ€™s â€˜Occupy the World,â€™â€ said Ashley Havlin, a natural resource and recreation and tourism major, her guitar resting next to her on the floor.
Itâ€™s 5:30 and Havlin and fellow Occupy supporter Alex Brena, a studio art major, are preparing to head to a 6:00 protest on the outskirts of Old Town.
Havlin and Brena are just two of the hundreds of supporters of the Occupy Fort Collins protest that has been growing in size in the past week, gaining more followers after the original protests on Wall Street began taking place in New York weeks ago. The protests focus on eliminating corporate influence and control in the government.
Over the past few weeks, the Occupy Wall Street movement has taken the world by storm. After dribbling its influence over Denver, the movement has now planted roots in Fort Collins, attracting many CSU students who wish to exercise their freedom of speech and assemble for a cause they believe in.
However, these protests have recently been criticized namely for the movementâ€™s belief in a leaderless association and the groupâ€™s lack of organization as a whole. Ethan Shaw, an Occupy Fort Collins facilitator and business major at CSU, argued that the movement has shown signs that indicate the opposite.
â€œWe have a community library, a medical stand, food supply, comfort zone, info table, and technology support,â€ Shaw said. â€œAll of the services are free and none of them have been abused.â€
Shaw attended the Wall Street protests in New York just this last week, witnessing several arrests that have only increased his disapproval of the government.
â€œThe mere fact that the protests are contained by homeland security shows that we do not actually have the freedom to assemble or the freedom of speech,â€ Shaw said.
Yet, when questioned about the actual reason for the groupsâ€™ retaliation, Shaw wavered. â€œThereâ€™s not anything that weâ€™re exactly protesting,â€ he said. â€œWe all know something is wrong with the current system we haveâ€¦but we all have different approaches to solving this problem.â€
Havlin and Brenaâ€™s cause for fighting, howver, hits much closer to home.
â€œIâ€™ve watched my mom work for 25 years for the same corporation and she still is barely putting food on the table,â€ Havlin said with a grim sense of nostalgia. â€œIf something isnâ€™t changed, I can see myself going through college and being put in the same position, but with $120,000 of debt.â€
Brena had similar qualms. After hearing about the protests from Havlin, he decided that the movement was something he was growing passionate about. He attended the protests in Denver and after that, Brenaâ€™s fate was sealed- he had found a cause worth fighting for.
â€œAfter talking to people down [in Denver]â€¦I realized that this is an important issue that has to be dealt with and it has to be dealt with now,â€ Brena said. â€œIt canâ€™t be put off any more.â€
Cait Berman, freshman journalism major, had a different experience with the protests. With no prior knowledge of the movement, she decided to go and check it out to see if it was something she could be enthusiastic about.
â€œ[I went] for the experience, mostly,â€ she said. â€œI do have certain beliefs that coincide with what a lot of people were saying but at the same time, I refrained from getting too involved in politics.â€
While she didnâ€™t share the same passion as Havlin, Brena and Shaw, Berman was affected by the protests and admittedly developed a better understanding of the movement as a whole.
â€œI think thatâ€™s a beautiful thing, you know? Seeing everyone standing there with signs and saying things against the government without being arrested or hurt for it [â€¦] everyone was just kind of on the same page,â€ Berman said. â€œI really respected everyone there.â€
As the protests continue, so will the criticism. While the outcome of â€˜Occupy the Worldâ€™ is uncertain, a dedicated public backs the movement keeps going, even in the harshest conditions backs the movement.