Tim Sullivan wins The White Hot Spotlight, which focuses on one's creative passions. A Rockland area resident for more than 10 years, Tim grew up in southern Maine, went to Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., studied boat design and built model boats, was a manager of the Good Tern Co-Op, and recently has turned to writing. An activist since he was 16, Tim has always been passionate about social, economic and environmental justice. He has been participating in the Occupy Wall Street movement since Sept. 29, starting in New York City and Boston, and now at Occupy Maine in Portland since mid-October.
Q: Give us a snapshot of what it has been like to be an activist in all three cities. What are the daily conditions like and the general mood of the Occupiers?
A: New York City is definitely where the heart and soul of this movement is. The other occupations are in solidarity, but many have grown to have their own identity, causes and working groups. Portland began in Monument Square — at one point there were 20 tents there, but the city struck a deal with them: Either be arrested, or move to Lincoln Park, which is next to the courthouse. The Occupiers accepted the compromise, and have created quite the little village. We have a kitchen, library, spiritual center, medical tent, and a dining/living room area. We've had growing pains, and creating a communal space out of complete strangers has been interesting, but it is that way with any group. We have folks who range from veteran activists to those who are new to politics. But everyone knows what we're there for and are committed to ending corporatocracy, or the rule of our country by corporations.
Q: How many people would you say are occupying Portland and can you give us an idea of who they are?
A: There's about 50 camping, plus many, many more in solidarity. Folks drop off donations of food, medical supplies, sleeping bags, clothes etc on a regular basis, probably dozens every day. Folks who know that this is a movement that is going to change the dynamics of government, but can't be there occupying. But they are there in spirit. Most of those camping are those who the casino economy have spit out into the cold. Many were homeless before Occupy started, and unemployed or underemployed. These folks know first hand what it means to be forgotten by our leaders. And they're not looking for handouts. They're wondering why corporations, particularly banks, got the handouts, yet the system still beats them down.
Q: How are you eating/sleeping in the cold, rain and outdoors in Maine?
A: We've all got tents, so the weather isn't much of a problem, even during that nor'easter that blew 40 mph winds. We've rebuilt our kitchen and library to withstand what might come in January, and a sturdy geodesic dome was donated by Dick Fischbeck.
Q: To the critics who complain this nationwide movement has no focus, what is your focus, your personal reasons for putting your life on hold to participate in this movement?
A: My focus is ending corporate rule and corporate personhood. Corporations have been granted the same rights you and I have through various Supreme Court rulings. See movetoamend.org for more info. They have way too much influence in our lives and in politics. We are creeping towards a fascist state, and I will do everything I can to stop that.
Q: What has been the most dangerous part of this experience so far?
A: We had a chemical bomb thrown into camp one night, about 4 a.m. Lye and bleach mixed in a two liter bottle, I believe. Someone was about 10 feet from it, and could have been killed or badly hurt. I was about 15 to 20 feet from it in my tent and couldn't hear very well that day. It's ironic, since we have been such a peaceful group, even moving the occupation to avoid conflict with the police. I think some people don't understand nonviolent movements and think we can be provoked and intimidated into responding in kind.
Q: You are now part of a security team that does a shift each night: Describe that.
A: Basically, we have a group of folks stay up at night to keep an eye on things, making sure nobody is harassing the Occupiers. I'm also on Direct Action, which puts together events like teach-ins and demonstrations. I'm also currently working on a response to the city's Parks and Recreation Department inquiry on what we are doing this winter.
Q: What kind of support and opposition have you been getting from Portland's residents, officials and the media?
A: 99 percent great! :) It is awesome when someone comes in with a pile of clothing or food because you know they would be there with us if they could be. We now have cops coming through the camp on a regular basis and they are good folks — part of the 99 percent, too. The media here, save for a few horribly written MD Harmon/PPH editorials, have been unbiased and fair, reporting on facts and not hysteria, even the local FoxNews station.
Q: How long can you sustain being in this movement and what do you predict will be an eventual outcome?
A: I think Occupy as a movement is here to stay, until maybe we have a constitutional amendment denying corporations personhood. If the government isn't going to watchdog the corporations, then the people have to. It is imperative we do so, otherwise corporations will completely take over, and "profits over people" will be our national motto. I believe Bank of America rescinded its debit card fee because the people, encouraged by Occupy, spoke out. A report today says that Wall Street Executive perks will be down 30 percent this year. The Robin Hood and Buffett taxes are seriously being considered, instead of waved off as class warfare. But, I will personally be in this until corporations no longer have the same right to basic human freedoms that you and I do.
See occupymaine.org and occupywallst.org for more info.
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