by Dan Schneider
Anyone walking through the main entryway of our occupation has to cross Dewey Square’s wide concrete tiles, skate around a few small discussion groups, pass the Logistics tent and walk right in front of a landmark of sorts. Standing against one of the poles used to support the main ‘Occupy Boston’ banner is a brown, 9 foot tall plastic replica of Mohandas Gandhi.
Gandhi believed in the fundamental right of people to determine their own destiny and advocated non-violent protest on a mass scale. His ideological relationship to our movement is clear. What isn’t clear is how the statue came to reside in our encampment.
The statue’s journey began at a peace center known as the Peace Abbey in Sherborn, MA. Though staffed by Quakers and adhering to many aspects of Quaker philosophy, those who run the center respect all faiths (or lack thereof) and are dedicated to nonviolence and social justice. Given its location and underlying philosophy, you wouldn’t expect either the Abbey to be a hotbed of political activity or the decisive steps its members took on October 28th, 2010.
It was a surprise to the employees of Goldman Sachs’ Boston office when a group of smiling Abbey members, several special needs children from the Life Experience School and a 9 foot likeness of an Indian civil rights leader appeared that day. The delegation had come to offer the statue as a gift, to be placed in the lobby as a reminder of greed’s corrosive impact on our world. When the statue was quickly rejected, the offering was turned into a symbol of protest as the group pushed it into the revolving doors and chained off the front of the main doors to the building.
By the day’s end, the demonstrators had returned to Sherborn and the replica statue Gandhi statue was stored for its next journey. It remained there until early October of this year, when Lewis Randa – the Abbey’s founder and director – heard that the mass occupation of Wall St. had spread to the Hub. With the involvement of Brandeis University intern, Esther Brandon, who drafted the email, he reached out to our then-loosely assembled group of protestors to have the statue brought to Dewey Square. After sending several emails with no reply, a member of the early Communications team’s interest was piqued by the subject line ‘The Abbey Wants to Protest With Gandhi’. A few days later, Lewis and two of his special needs students from the Life Experience School personally delivered the statue to Dewey Square, facing a group of occupiers with eyes wide like children on Christmas morning.
Since then, the statue has become an important landmark at Occupy Boston and serves as the meeting place for the SPP (Strategies, Proposals and Principles) working group. Everyone who walks into our camp, whether enraged protestor or curious tourist, has to stop and look up at the smiling, bespectacled face. And, perhaps, they also look down at the small sign displaying the simple phrase: “The world holds enough for everyone’s NEED, but not enough for everyone’s GREED”.