New School students occupy study center in 14th St. building

[media-credit name=”Photo by Jason B. Nicholas” align=”aligncenter” width=”600″][/media-credit]
New School students have occupied leased space inside 90 Fifth Ave., at the corner of 14th St. and Fifth Ave.
By NADIA RENIDRAG  |  Thursday’s day of action by Occupy Wall Street saw plenty of action at Greenwich Village’s The New School, where some students walked out of classes and an on-campus occupation also began.

Things started off in midafternoon when 50 students gathered in the Vera List courtyard between The New School’s 11th and 12th St. buildings. They chanted “Walk out!” very loudly.

People who had classes adjacent to the courtyard came to the windows to see what was happening. Some closed their blinds. Only about five actually joined the walkout. Apparently, many classes had already been cancelled because professors knew their students wanted to join the protest. Presumably a good number of students were already at Union Square.

One student played a bongo drum, leading the group like a pied piper. As they walked out to the street, New School President David Van Zandt held the door open for them and said, “You’re doing a good job, guys.” He wore a navy sports coat and khakis and had a Bluetooth earpiece in his ear.

The students toted signs, saying, “Money for schools not for banks” and “Political justice and education.”

They chanted: “Student strike!” and “People united will never be defeated!” and “They say cutbacks! We say fight back!”

As the students marched toward Union  Square, car drivers honked their support. People in delis waved and pumped their fists.

When they passed the building with all the graduate professors’ offices, they were joined by political science professors Jim Miller and Andreas Kalyvas.

Students from other schools who were already assembled in Union Square cheered as The New School brigade approached.

Speakers stood on the north steps of the pavilion on the park’s north side as the students gathered in the northern plaza area.

Taylor Hand, 21, of The Cooper Union, declared: “Education should be as free as air and water.”

They used the now-familiar “people’s mic” system, in which their words were repeated in waves through the crowd. To their side, a man stood coaching them on when to speak so their words wouldn’t overlap in the four or five waves of messages and cause confusion.

Christina Chaise, from Hunter College, was protesting CUNY tuition hikes.

“CUNY is my home, my opportunity,” she said. “Coming from the projects, it was my only opportunity. And it scares me that the children of New York City may not have theirs.”

A fight briefly broke out as a man with long red hair reportedly wanted to jump the line of speakers and get to the podium, but others tried to explain that he had to wait.

Ahmed Maher, a co-founder of the movement that overthrew Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, addressed the crowd.

“We are all in Egypt,” he said. “We support you. We are in solidarity with you. I believe that we can change the world. Don’t give up. Keep going.”

At 4 p.m., the rally left Union Square and headed down Fifth Ave. A line of police halted the march at 14th St. and 5th Ave. Roughly 100 protesters, mainly students, rushed into The New School’s study center on the second floor of 90 Fifth Ave., right above a TD Bank. Police immediately barred others from following by forming another line along the entrance of the building. President Van Zandt eventually told the officers to allow others into the space.

The march moved on, but about 100 more people stayed at the intersection. Police formed a moving wall and shoved protesters down 14th St., away from the building.

Once inside, protesters reportedly covered the security cameras and asked everyone who worked in The New School offices there to leave if they did not want to participate in the protest.

At 5 p.m., Van Zandt and Provost Tim Marshall visited the occupation. They were concerned about the maximum occupancy of the space (140 people) and told the protesters not to exceed it.

At around 5:30 p.m., people started bringing more provisions. Members of the National Lawyers Guild arrived and went upstairs.

Protesters declined to speak to reporters that first day because they hadn’t yet developed a press policy. Currently, reporters are still barred from the occupied space.

The number of people inside kept fluctuating because people come and go. Many continue to study and go to class.

They call themselves the All-City Student Occupation because they’re trying to use The New School space as an organizing point for a citywide student movement similar to Occupy Wall Street. Many of those inside are from other universities. The New School is permitting those with valid ID to enter the space as they wish.

The New School doesn’t own the building, but leases it, and the landlord hasn’t yet made a move to evict the students.

In a statement, Van Zandt said, in part, of his discussion with the occupiers: “While they were clear that this is not an action against The New School, they refused to give up the space. In a courteous exchange, we reached an agreement that The New School would not have the protesters forcibly removed at this time. In turn, they agreed that they would not disrupt classes, interfere with other tenants in the building, or violate its legal occupancy limit.

“I reiterated my expectations that they make theirs and others’ safety a priority, that damage to our property would not be tolerated, and that there should be no disruption of other students’ access to any of our educational programs (other than studying in the Student Study Center). The lines of communication between us remain open.

“While the university takes no position in this or any movement, The New School supports free expression and the right to protest,” Van Zandt said. “Communities around the world are responding in sympathy to those who feel that their voice has not been heard. While it is not without cost, providing a space for those voices is part of our unique mission.”