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Occupy Worcester participant Jon Noble knows the movement can't take itself too seriously

Posted by Alex Pearlman  January 30, 2012 08:51 AM

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jon noble occupy worcester.jpgBy Mason Weiser

Being politically conscious isn't easy. Most people are too apathetic to vote, so trying to start a conversation about economic injustice is like pulling teeth. In that respect, the Occupy movement is a godsend for the kind of people who try to start conversations: There's always someone willing to talk, even at a small occupation like Occupy Worcester, which usually draws about 20 people to GAs.

"People don't like bad news like layoffs and bad government spending and whatnot," said Jon Noble, 22, a long-time Worcester resident and Occupy Worcester member. "They want to avoid it."

A crowd of hundreds marching with flags and signs is formidable and empowering, but if you only have a dozen or so people, you can't help but feel a bit silly. Luckily for Occupy Worcester, Noble is no stranger to feeling a bit silly: He's is the kind of guy who got made fun of in high school a lot. He usually wears a battered blazer with either a comic book-themed T-shirt or a button-up with a bowtie. He works as a busboy at The Sole Proprietor, a local seafood restaurant. He has a tradition of giving tacky dollar store curios to all his friends on his birthday.

And he may be exactly the kind of person Worcester's small occupation needs to survive.

Noble was introduced to the Occupy movement through an Occupy the Hood march, which could explain why he's so enamored with direct action. "I saw a lot of concerned people, and it really resonated with me," he said. "Bad things are happening because people don't care. I see Occupy as a way of bringing them into the light."

In early December, around the time the furor over the National Defense Authorization Act was at its peak, Noble saw the culmination of a plan he'd been brewing for a while: He wrangled a cardboard coffin into the back of his parents' car and stopped at Walgreens to pick up plastic flowers and a roll of duct tape. The plan was to march with other Occupiers to the Harold D. Donohue Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse and hold a mock funeral for the Bill of Rights, but as Noble stood on Worcester Common at the Occupiers' designated meeting place, erecting the prop coffin, his only company was a pair of curious homeless folks -- even though he had arrived 15 minutes late.

In the end, only seven Occupiers took part in the march. "Apparently someone on Facebook suggested postponing the action for a week, and a few people thought it was agreed on," Noble said. The resulting display was unequivocally ridiculous: A handful of chilly protesters standing among the Donohue Building's withered decorative plants, tossing plastic roses the color of cheap lipstick onto a cardboard coffin with "liberty" written on the side in duct tape as a few of them muttered halfhearted words of mourning.

The Occupy movement, with its mustachioed masks and twinkling hand signals, can sometimes look odd to outsiders. But Occupy Worcester's sparsely attended actions haven't slowed Noble down at all; in fact, he's planning another one: a "community group call-in."

"We're going to get people together, talk about important issues, and then call our representatives," he said. "So many people don't care that people in elected office get away with murder. I want people to know that they can do something."

And a few weeks after the first funeral attempt, Noble tried again. About three times as many people showed up.

Photo courtesy of Occupy Worcester

A version of this story originally appeared in the Jan. 18, 2012, issue of The Boston Occupier.

About Mason -- I'm a freshman journalism student at Emerson College. I spend most of my free time either trying to make sense of the world or pretentiously explaining it to other people, which will hopefully launch me into a successful career as a political analyst, though probably not. I never grew out of my teenage socialist phase, which isn't helping my chances in mainstream publications. I am, by all accounts, too tall.

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