Occupy the Hamptons Considers Its Options

By Cecil Amrein
Organizers of an Occupy the Hamptons protest in Sag Harbor Sunday afternoon moved a meeting indoors because of a cold wind blowing from the north. Cecil Amrein

    As the demonstrators of Occupy Wall Street braved the record cold this weekend, Occupy the Hamptons relocated its general assembly to a hallway in the Long Wharf shops in Sag Harbor, rather than meet outside by the village windmill as they had done previously.
    On the agenda was Bank Transfer Day, which falls on Saturday. Members of the group plan to express their solidarity with others all over the country by ending their associations with large banks.
    Bank Transfer Day’s mission, according to its Facebook page, is to “re-invest in our local communities through the transfer of funds from ‘big banks’ to credit unions.” It is not affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement, but it seems that many of the “99 percent” support its agenda and are, in fact, way ahead of it.
    Encouraging one another on Sunday to close their big-bank accounts and transfer the money to smaller institutions, those in attendance traded stories of mysterious charges on otherwise paid-off bank credit cards, leading to exorbitant late fees and a subsequent delay in closing the account. They were encouraged to report any such instances to the proper authorities. Almost 68,000 people are scheduled to “attend” Bank Transfer Day through Facebook, and Occupy the Hamptons facilitators expressed hope that Saturday’s events would go smoothly and without incident.
    During the proceedings, a letter was read from a local shopowner who identified herself only as Dawn. She expressed disappointment at not being able to support the Occupy group in person but said she could not afford to hire any employees and must keep her store open seven days a week to get by. She wrote about her efforts to educate customers who offer to pay with credit cards: she must pay the bank 5 percent on each credit card transaction, she said, which  greatly affects her bottom line. She encouraged the group to join the Use Cash Movement, which aims to deprive large banks of the monies they receive from credit card and debit card fees.
    The suggestions to shop local and use cash received unanimous support.
    One of the 50 demonstrators highlighted various educational films given to him by Occupy Wall Street participants. One film in particular, “The Secret of Oz,” which proposes that economic solutions can be gleaned from the beloved Hollywood film “The Wizard of Oz,” won Best Documentary 2010 at the Beloit International Film Festival. The Occupy group plans to make the films available for viewing, most likely through a lending library-type system.
    In addition to organizational issues arising as the Sag Harbor group grows larger, a proposal to consolidate the varying Occupy groups across the state was introduced. There are more than three on Long Island alone. One large Occupy New York State group may evolve into a spokes-council, or committee of representatives, as more and more join in support. This will appear on the local agenda next week for further discussion, but there is a distinct possibility that Occupy the Hamptons will continue as an independent offshoot. Alexis Hormanski, a frequent visitor from Connecticut, saw the distance as a major drawback. “I think everybody wants to have their individuality,” she said.
    Speaking as a visitor, Ms. Hormanski said there were unique issues affecting the Hamptons, especially economic concerns. “The Hamptons really are old money and [they’re] all so divided,” she said. “You have the more affluent in one area and you have the average person, the so-called middle class that’s no longer in existence, in the other part. That’s where I have difficulty, because I’m an outsider and I can see it.”
    The group itself highlights this on its Web site, which declares, “Occupy the Hamptons: Where the 1 percent vacation.”
    When asked about the proposal to consolidate, Tori P., who declined to be identified further but was one of the many facilitators, expressed similar hesitation. “My only concern for it is how it’s going to be organized, obviously because of location. Would we, our small group, maintain our autonomy?” She also expressed apprehension about the effectiveness of a spokes-council. “We all worry that specific people who are not part of an affinity group or work group may not have their opinion heard or their ideas,” she said.
    Occupy The Hamptons continues to meet each Sunday at 3 p.m. on Long Wharf.

Comments

Wow, I appreciate reading well written articles like this one. I find it disappointing, though, that large banks undo the progress made by communities striving to support local businesses, by requiring business owners to pay a five percent interest when their customers use credit cards.