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Occupy Johnson City rallies to defend education

Jennifer Sprouse • Mar 1, 2012 at 10:37 PM

Occupy Johnson City held a campaign movement at East Tennessee State University Thursday afternoon to defend education.

The group gathered at 2:30 p.m. near the campus amphitheater, handing out flyers and talking to students and people passing by about their cause.

Josh Flaccavento, an adjunct professor at ETSU and the event’s organizer, said this particular campaign was planned about a month ago, by way of the Occupy Together website that lists certain strategies for groups like OJC to participate in.

“People who organize Occupy Together post ideas for events like national solidarity kind of things,” Flaccavento said. “We saw on Occupy Together that one of the ideas was for March 1 to be a national day of action about education, and that prompted us to start organizing this.”

According to a flyer given to people Thursday, the defend education stance taken by OJC focused on things such as class sizes, affordability of attending school and overall awareness of teachers’ pay, benefits and working conditions.

Flaccavento said starting and improving communication among those involved with education was a goal of Thursday’s assembly.

“The most important thing it can do is get K-12 teachers, labor organizers and activists, campus workers and faculty talking to each other,” he said. “We can build networks here and that’s going to be very important going forward if we want to get substantive changes accomplished in the way education is handled in our state and in our country.”

Flaccavento said a reason he started teaching and investing his time in Occupy was to help educate students about these issues.

“I hope that while I’m here teaching that I can help some of these young kids start looking at these things critically, because I think most people don’t have the tools to examine the power structures and really figure out what’s going on,” he said.

The OJC group has been active in protests before, organizing at local banks, as well as structured movements like the defend education and shut down the corporations campaigns, Flaccavento said.

“Every now and then there will be a national thing that we’ll show solidarity with, but we try to have events weekly,” he said.

The OJC general assembly meets every Saturday at 2 p.m., Flaccavento said.

“Hopefully some people who come today and want more information will come join us, join the conversation,” he said.

According to a news release, Bruce Dotson, president of the Upper East Tennessee Central Labor Council, and Jennifer Davis, with the Tennessee Education Association, also were scheduled to speak at the Occupy event later on Thursday.

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