Occupying the Rust Belt: In Three Deindustrialized Cities,
Protesters Find Friendly Cops, Determination and Despair
Americans here are beaten down. But in occupations around the country they have found a space where they can speak of their struggles, burdens and aspirations.
Photo: Youngstown occupier
By Arun Gupta
Beaver County Blue via Alternet.org
Oct 25, 2011 – The surefire method to find occupations in small cities is to head for the center of town. After leaving Philadelphia on our Occupy America tour, we drive an hour north to Allentown. Pennsylvania’s third-largest city at 118,000 residents, Allentown has been weathered by years of deindustrialization in the steel, cement and textile industries that once made it an economic powerhouse.
Along MacArthur Boulevard, one of Allentown’s main drags, tidy but weary brick row homes line outlying neighborhoods. Close to Center Square, site of the requisite Civil War monument, the neighborhoods are heavily Latino and buildings exhibit signs of disrepair.
Occupy Allentown has taken up residence in Center Square, inhabiting one of the four red-brick plazas on each corner. There are a handful of tents, a well-supplied kitchen pavilion and an information desk. A large blue and gray nylon tent, which 12 people crammed into the first night of the occupation, has laundry hanging off a clothesline in back and a cardboard sign on the front that reads “Zuccotti Arms,” in reference to the original Wall Street occupation.
We’ve come in search of Adam Santo, said to be the local leader of a leaderless movement. A handsome, boxy-glassed youth a few years out of college, Santo says he knew about the planning for Occupy Wall Street prior to Sept. 17.
“I wanted to go to New York, but I’ve been unemployed and finances were tight, so I thought wouldn’t it be cool to have an occupation in the Lehigh Valley,” where Allentown is nestled. Eight months earlier he and three co-workers were laid off from their jobs at a local bank because of a “lack of work.”