Wednesday, November 16, 2011

 With the original Occupy Wall Street protesters evicted, here's an update about the women from Vermont I followed last month. I had some negative responses to this article in my inbox this morning.

Rarely are parents proud that their children have been jailed. But two Upper Valley mothers whose daughters were arrested at New York's Occupy Wall Street protest in the early morning hours yesterday couldn't be more pleased.
“They're working together with these people who are serious about trying to create a new way to live where there's equality and fairness and justice,” said Hartland resident Nancy Theriault, whose daughters Sophie Theriault and Hannah Morgan have been part of Occupy Wall Street along with their friend, Emma McCumber, since late September. “I'm proud.”
“I know she's got a really good head on her shoulders,” said McCumber's mother, Libbet Downs, of Reading. “She really cares about justice. She's very dedicated and passionate and doing what she believes in with every fiber of her being, so I'm not worried.”
The three young women from Vermont had camped in Zuccotti Park for roughly six weeks before police entered the protest site in the early morning hours yesterday, scouring the park of protesters' belongings and hauling 200 people to jail, including 20-year-old Sophie Theriault and 23-year-old McCumber. Those connected with the young women did not know what they were being charged with or where they were being held.
Morgan, 23, had spent the night at an art studio in Brooklyn and was not arrested in the operation, though she too was jailed and charged with disorderly conduct earlier in the week after dressing as a clown and participating in a mock bullfighting demonstration against the charging bull statue in Bowling Green Park near Wall Street. Morgan learned her clowning skills from her mother (a former clown) while growing up in Hartland; the YouTube video of her comedic dance has attracted nearly 52,000 hits.
“This is so awesome,” Theriault commented on her own Facebook page after posting the video of Morgan's arrest. The video -- and Theriault's unwavering support of her daughters -- garnered a flurry of positive comments, one of which proclaimed Theriault “the best mother in America.” (Her response? “I just lucked out, is all.”)
With reports that police blocked journalists from the site of the mass arrests, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter again played central roles in publicizing the latest saga in the Occupy Wall Street movement. Theriault stayed up through the night watching the live video feed of the protest and posting real-time status updates on Facebook that chronicled the information she was getting from her daughters.
“Dear friends -- I'm up in the middle of the night because I just received a phone call -- Zuccotti Park is being raided,” she wrote at 2:31 a.m. “Hannah is in Brooklyn, and fine, but Sophie is locked to something in the park, refusing to leave, and they are being teargassed. Please pray for them, and if you are NY, please GO THERE!!!”
(Accounts varied whether New York police used pepper spray on the protesters.)
Glued to her computer screen and cell phone, Theriault continued to receive updates until about 4 in the morning. After that, all was silent.
“It was crazy,” Theriault said yesterday afternoon in a telephone interview. “Sophie was texting me, and I was watching the live feed, and at same time, they both went dead. ‘They're moving in, they're coming closer,’ was last thing I heard from her.”
“She was texting me up until about 10 minutes ago. Now, nothing,” Theriault posted on Facebook at 4:07 a.m. “The OWS live feed has gone down. I got an e-mail saying that all of the people locked together have been wrestled to the ground and dragged off by police. … Stay strong, Soph. I love you.”
After a sleepless night in Vermont, the two mothers began receiving phone calls from Morgan, who reported that her fellow protesters were safely in jail, though she didn't know where. Their possessions where thrown away, the chains with which they had shackled themselves had been cut and the protesters were roughly handcuffed, Theriault said, but both mothers seemed assured that their daughters were not hurt and had been treated fairly well.
“They weren't hurt, they weren't pepper sprayed, apparently,” Downs said. “(Morgan) reassured me that there was a phalanx of lawyers on the sidelines.”
“They threw all their stuff in the trash,” Theriault said. “Sophie said, ‘I'm sorry, I think I lost your sleeping bag.' I’m really hoping Sophie’s banjo made it through.”
Despite the setback, the activists' mothers echoed the rallying cry that's arisen from the around the clean, empty park. The protests will go on, they say, and the young women from Vermont will be a part of them.
“They're determined to stay,” Theriault said. “They're there for the duration. It sounds like they're going to try to find another place or go back to the park. They sound resilient and determined and, if anything, emboldened.”
Both mothers say that they nurtured their daughters' activist spirits while the three girls were growing up in Vermont, and both admitted that they likely passed on some of their own passion for justice, peace and equality.
The mothers have each visited the protest in New York (though neither camped out) and said they'll continue to support their daughters in any way possible, regardless of the charges that might soon occupy their permanent records. Theriault is trying to rent an apartment in the city around Christmastime so she can spend the holidays with her daughters, and both sets of parents hope to bring their daughters home for a Thanksgiving dinner.
“I'm very proud, I'm thrilled for them to be right in the mix of such an amazing movement that's gotten worldwide attention,” Theriault said.
As of 5:30 p.m. yesterday, Sophie Theriault and Emma McCumber were still being held in jail. Neither they nor Hannah Morgan could be reached by telephone.
Krista Langlois can be reached at or 603-727-3305.

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