SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

November 12, 2012

Occupy Sandy: Onetime protesters find new cause

(Continued)

Now the group has dozens of relief centers across the city and a stream of volunteers who are shuttled out to the most desperate areas. It is partnering with local community and volunteer organizations.

A recent post on Occupy Sandy’s Facebook page announced: “Attention! If anyone in Rockaway needs to have their basement pumped, please contact Suzanne Hamalak at suzybklyn@aol.com. Her family wants to help and have industrial pumps...they will do it for free.....”

In Rockaway Park, Occupier Diego Ibanez, 24, has been sleeping on the freezing floor of a community center down the street from a row of charred buildings destroyed by a fire.

“You see a need and you fulfill it,” he explained. “There’s not a boss to tell you that you can’t do this or you can’t do that. Zuccotti was one of the best trainings in how to mobilize so quickly.”

There is little public transportation in the neighborhood, where most people still don’t have power and many homes were wrecked. Occupy has supplied residents with hot meals, batteries and blankets. Medics and nurses knock on doors to check on the elderly.

At one Occupy outpost in Rockaway, residents wandered in recently off the garbage-strewn streets looking for medicine.

They lined up in an ice-cold abandoned store that had been hastily transformed into a makeshift pharmacy. Gauze bandages and bottles of disinfectant were piled on tables behind a tattered curtain.

“I think we wouldn’t be able to survive without them,” said Kathleen Ryan, who was waiting for volunteers to retrieve her diabetes medication, stamping her feet on the plywood floor to keep warm. “This place is phenomenal. This community. They’ve helped a great deal.”

Is this Occupy Wall Street’s finest hour? In the church basement, Carrie Morris paused from folding blankets into garbage bags and smiled at the idea.

“We always had mutual aid going on,” she said. “It’s a big part of what we do. That’s the idea, to help each other. And we want to serve as a model for the larger society that, you know, everybody should be doing this.”

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