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Did Sandy save Occupy?

Occupy Wall Street

"Occupy Sandy has cooked and distributed between 10 and 15 thousand meals each day; enlisted more than 7,000 volunteers; created three major distribution hubs from which it dispatches both workers and supplies; and established dozens of recovery sites in New York and New Jersey."

Did Sandy save Occupy?

The protest movement's disaster-relief efforts have helped it connect with the “99 percent” in new, meaningful ways

By Sharon Lerner
The American Prospect
November 27, 2012

How did we get here? This is the question occupying “occupiers,” as they call themselves, at their first post-Sandy community-wide meeting. On this cold November night just before Thanksgiving, “here” is the St. Jacobi Lutheran church in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, where at least 300 Occupy Sandy volunteers have crammed into the pews. But “here” is also the uneasy juncture of political protest and disaster relief where this newly formed organization finds itself.

Occupy Sandy’s story began in the hours just after the superstorm hit, when “a few of us occupiers were just texting each other at like 2 a.m. seeing how we could help,” recalls Bre Lembitz. A lanky 22-year-old whose blond curls are shaved close on one side of her head, Lambitz suggested bringing meals to the shore, and “everyone was totally down to do relief work.” So the next morning, she and a few others from Occupy Wall Street created an Occupy Sandy Twitter account and Facebook page, and headed down to Breezy Point with hot food, though they didn’t mention their affiliation to the residents of the relatively conservative community at the time. “It felt like people might not trust us to eat the food,” says Lambitz. “It was about helping the people—not pushing occupy values.”

Four adrenaline- and caffeine-fueled weeks later, while the question of how the occupy movement’s founding values jive with relief work is still a matter of debate, there is no question how much the mammoth, headless, volunteer-run disaster-relief organization has helped people. Since those very first days, Occupy Sandy has cooked and distributed between 10 and 15 thousand meals each day; enlisted more than 7,000 volunteers; created three major distribution hubs from which it dispatches both workers and supplies; and established dozens of recovery sites in New York and New Jersey. Perhaps most stunning, the group has raised more than $600,000 in cash for its efforts and received more than $700,000 in supplies donated through repurposed online wedding registries.

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