Famous 1960s activists visit Occupy Ann Arbor site

Marlene Lacasse/Daily
1960s activists Odile Huguenot-Haber and Alan Haber speak about revolutionary thought and action at the Occupy Ann Arbor site at Liberty Plaza on Tuesday, Nov. 1. Buy this photo

By Chelsea Landry, Daily Staff Reporter
Published November 1, 2011

More than 30 students, community members and activists huddled together last night in Liberty Plaza as the temperatures dropped into the 40s to listen to international activists and University alumni Alan Haber and Odile Huguenot-Haber.

Haber, best known for founding the activist group Students for a Democratic Society in 1960, and his partner Huguenot-Haber visited Ann Arbor’s division of the Occupy Wall Street movement and discussed their experiences before offering the microphone to members of the audience.

In addition to Haber’s role in SDS, he was involved in other humanitarian causes of the 1960s including the civil rights movement and resistance of apartheid in South Africa. However, he said he doesn’t believe Occupy Ann Arbor could have existed during his time at the University because of the movement’s controversy.

“There would never be a gathering of this kind at that time,” Haber said. “It would be too controversial.”

He added that he believes there are similarities between the movements of the 1960s and the activity surrounding Occupy Ann Arbor and encouraged students to be aware of their rights.

“We are beginning again such an endeavor, and you all are invited,” Haber said.

Huguenot-Haber echoed Haber’s passion.

“We need to create an all together different structure with more imagination,” she said. “We need to take the money out of politics.”

Huguenot-Haber added that one of the best aspects of the Occupy Ann Arbor movement is the sense of community it is fostering.

“We are outside together instead of alone in front of (our) computer,” she said.

Huguenot-Haber spoke at length about her activism while living in France, where she protested on behalf of exploited workers and fought against a system that she said put the lower and middle classes at a disadvantage.

Haber and Huguenot-Haber were interrupted periodically by audience members, and the speakers welcomed them to voice their opinions on social matters. Some people called for an end to privatized education, while others voiced support for the re-election of public officials and asked for a peaceful end to current wars.

Haber welcomed the interjections and told the audience to “continue to challenge the ruling powers” to create change.

“People need to meet together and talk to see eye to eye,” he said. “Make this a political family seeking to transform Ann Arbor and the world.”

Larry Horvath, a local community activist and former school teacher, said that while he is not a frequent visitor to the Occupy Ann Arbor site, he attended the event to hear Haber’s speech because he was involved in activism in the 1960s.

“(The revolution) that Alan Haber was part of was at the jumping-off point for a generation,” Horvath said. “(Haber) will help you build the barricades, even if you can’t climb them anymore.”

Alexandra Hoffman, who has been living in a tent in Liberty Plaza for the past two weeks, expressed her excitement about hearing Haber’s speech. His visit is one of several events happening at Occupy Ann Arbor this week to raise awareness of the movement, she said.

“We try to do something every day to draw people here,” Hoffman added. “It’s exhausting, but it’s rewarding.”