The Occupy movement, which has already spread to Jamaica Plain, Allston and out to suburban communities, now has taken root in Dorchester.
“We need to use the momentum of Occupy Boston to work on progress here,” said Akunna Eneh, a 29-year-old Dorchester resident and one of Occupy Dorchester’s organizers.
The group of residents and activists held its first “General Assembly” Wednesday night at the Dorchester House Health Center in Fields Corner to discuss how they could use the message and tactics of the Occupy movement to bring change to Dorchester.
The group of about 20 residents, a mix of self-proclaimed activists, socialists, union members, and other interested individuals, shared ideas and highlighted the struggles that Dorchester residents face. Many of the participants had in some way had been involved in the occupation last fall of Dewey Square and want to bring the message to Dorchester.
“I’m very concerned about the homeless population. I know Occupy Boston was very good to them,” said Gerry Scoppettuolo, a 64-year-old nonprofit case manager and Dorchester resident.
Along with homelessness, others at the informal meeting talked about what they observed in the community.
“In my neighborhood I’ve seen a lot of gentrification,” said Mike, a 22-year-old Dorchester resident who didn’t want to provide his last name. “I think that’s something we could really rally people around.”
Others chose to highlight ways to pressure legislatures into finding options for raising money to support social services.
“Taxes on soda and candy could bring in a lot of money,” said Margaret Lamb, a 68-year-old Dorchester resident.
But many at the meeting rebuked the suggestion, saying that a tax on soda and candy is really a tax on the working class.
Although issues were broad and at times the conversation was disjointed, many found that their rallying point for the community could be the recent proposal by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority to raise fares and cut service, which would affect many bus routes and train lines throughout Dorchester.
“The T is the obvious starting point,” said Mike Prokosch, a 63-year-old Dorchester resident and member of Dorchester People for Peace. “But our experience is that it’s [Dorchester] not an unorganized community. There are people mobilizing, so while we are doing our work, be conscious that there are other organizations out there already working this turf.”
Including other organizations was a major focus of the group. Some discussed ways to increase union participation while others brought up ways to bring in more minorities to the group. The majority of residents at the GA Wednesday night were white; according to the 2010 census only 28-percent of Dorchester residents consider themselves white.
“How do we get more people here? How do we get more residents and people of color to come out and join us?” said Hewan Kassa, a 24-year-old Dorchester resident and one of the organizers.
While the majority of the conversation Wednesday night revolved around MBTA fare hikes and foreclosures in the neighborhood, others called for more radical steps, although there are no plans to occupy any space in Dorchester.
“I’m envisioning large protests. Can we occupy a foreclosed home?” said Eneh. His suggestion received support from many in attendance, including Devon Jones, a 24-year-old Dorchester resident.
“I’m very much behind occupying foreclosed homes,” said Jones.
Members of Occupy Dorchester are currently focusing on MBTA fare hike protests and upcoming Occupy Boston events where they hope to increase membership and visibility of the group.