Occupy the Hamptons is not Occupy Wall Street. The protesters are not camping out in any park, not getting celebrity drop-ins or generating front-page news across the country. But the message is inherently the same—people are angry and they want to do something about it. “Everything we do is considered a branch of Occupy Wall Street,” says Ty Wenzel, an organizer of Occupy the Hamptons, “and we try to remain loyal to that.” After their initial gathering at the Long Wharf in Sag Harbor on October 15 and subsequent meetings at that spot, members of Occupy the Hamptons are now participating in general assemblies on a weekly basis at a range of East End locations.
“Last week we were in East Hampton, this week we are going to be in Wainscott,” Wenzel explains. “The next one is in Water Mill on Sunday at the Incarnation Lutheran Church in the basement at 2 p.m. We get a lot of people that show up. Some people there are more radical than others, but we are working together to make things happen. We debate each other, and we take votes from the group. It takes time to get things passed, but we’re moving forward. We’re very pro community and we really want to help the community. We are organizing to help out the local food banks and things like that.”
Wenzel explains that Occupy the Hamptons is an extension of the Wall Street movement, and that most specifically the Hamptons contingent wants to make noise about corruption. “We as a group are doing everything we can to fight corruption and to keep an eye on what’s going on here. If you think about it, really, we are still paying for what happened in East Hampton under McGintee. Anybody that abuses the system needs to watch out. We’ll make a lot of noise about it. We’re not watchdogs, we’re just pro-community.”
In terms of action, that’s what the meetings are for, Wenzel tells us. Some of the actions that they have undertaken have been very specific, such as a large portion of their members moving their money out of banks which the group feels are corrupt. Recently, the meetings have focused on encouraging people to buy from local stores instead of buying from large corporate chains. “Buying locally, for me and for us, is very important,” Wenzel says.
“We’re all pretty much the 99 percent, but every summer we get the 1 percent here. We can’t just think about the 3 months a year, though. There are no local stores left—they are all corporate, and we’re going to try to do something about it. There are a lot of people that are really upset about it.
“A lot of people think that we are all hippies, homeless and freeloaders, but that’s just not true. The majority of people in the group are working class, have children. Some were recently laid off and can’t find work. But everybody is very level-headed. It’s not about anything else but being fair and what’s good for people. There is nothing wrong with capitalism—I like capitalism. It’s about the corruption.”