Our own Norm Ivey at the OC protest

One of our regulars was in the paper today, in the story about Occupy Columbia:

On Wednesday, Norm Ivey, a sixth-grade science teacher from Northeast Richland, stopped by because the national news coverage has piqued his interest. When asked whether he supported the cause, Ivey said, “That’s why I’m down here.”

After spending an hour observing and talking to participants, Ivey decided the protesters were acting responsibly.

“It’s not a mess like people are trying to make it sound,” Ivey said. “I’ve heard people say stuff about them, but one of my favorite hobbies now is fact-checking.”

He also agreed with the protesters’ concerns about money in politics. So much so, that he returned a few hours later with a few items for the protesters, including an old solar panel left over from a science experiment and an old deep cell battery he had used to power a vehicle.

Occupy Columbia’s staying power has been bolstered by donations like the one Ivey gave. Those donations include everything from protest posters to laptop computers….

Here’s hoping Norm will jump in to offer us his further impressions.

I’ve been meaning to get down there myself — although as a journalist, not as a supporter. Norm got there ahead of me…

9 thoughts on “Our own Norm Ivey at the OC protest

  1. Norm Ivey

    Thanks for posting this, Brad.

    I actually went down because it was an opportunity to fact-check in person what they were about and how they were behaving. I was inclined to agree with them, but unwilling to embrace their protest until I knew more. The “That’s why I’m here” quote was taken slightly out of context. I actually responded something like “That’s why I’m here–to find out what they’re all about.” Small thing, though because, in general, I do support them.

    I spent about 2 hours Wednesday morning talking to the protesters and participating in a General Assembly. There were maybe a dozen people there. Walid Hakin told me there are many more protesters later in the evening after they get off work–so they’re not all unemployed or homeless (although one individual introduced himself as a homeless vet). There were a couple of ladies there in the morning who left to go to work after spending the night on the grounds. Daniel Wilkes was biking from Long Island to Key West and stopped off in Columbia for a few days. Another protester had just disembarked the train from Florida and was waiting for the 6pm bus to Asheville–just passing through. They were a thoroughly interesting group of people, overall–diverse and well spoken. Many cars passing by on Gervais blew their horns in support.

    Of the people I spoke to, the most common cause for being there was that money has corrupted politics. With that, I fully agree. Others were concerned about the sale of Capitol City Stadium. They had spoken at the City Council meeting the evening before, and they were encouraged by the delay of the sale. I’m less concerned about that issue. One said it must be nice for the corporations to have government minions to do their bidding–to fight wars to open markets for your products. That was a little over the top. A couple said how unfair it was that the top 1% control so much of the nation’s wealth. I don’t know that it’s “unfair”, but at this point the middle class is tapped out. It’s the middle class that lost their jobs, lost their homes (or the wealth in their homes), and lost confidence in the political system. Something has to change.

    Nobody offered any specific solutions, but I failed to ask that question. I don’t know how it can be fixed. I told the reporter that’s why we have elections–our representatives are supposed to find equitable and effective solutions to problems. (Robert Reich offers some intriguing solutions in his 2010 book Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future–get the money out of politics, reverse income tax, school vouchers based on need, increase tax rates on the wealthy, and more. He also predicts “enraged people showing up at…Wall Street office buildings”. I recommend it.)

    The General Assembly on that morning was basically a sharing of the day’s agenda and trying to settle some issues with their solar battery charging station and their Porta-Potty. They use the same method of communicating as the OWS group in New York use–repeating everything to make sure everyone can hear. That seemed pointless with such a small group. And I didn’t care too much for the waggling of fingers to express approval or disapproval. Thumbs up/thumbs down works for pretty much every website on the planet–why not use it in live events? But those things are unimportant. What is important is that these are thoughtful people with real concerns.

    The Statehouse grounds were spotless. Following the General Assembly we policed the grounds. There’s no trash whatsoever. They have receptacles for trash, recycling and compost. The Sierra Club paid for their Porta-Potty, so no one is soiling the grounds.

    I enjoyed the morning. I support the protesters in their general mood of discontent, and on some specifics. It’s nothing like what some of the comments on the original article make it sound like. It’s easy to go see for yourselves. They are there 24 hours a day.

  2. `Kathryn Fenner

    Thanks, Norm, both for your report and for your considered approach to the event. You’re clearly good people.

  3. bud

    Good report Norm. I’ve walked by a couple of times at lunch. Seemed like a pretty ragged bunch but peaceful. I’ll specifically look for the cleanliness aspect next time I go. Fox News and others have portrayed the OWS groups and a bunch of dirty, litterbugs. I’m glad that doesn’t seem to be the case in Columbia.

  4. Bart

    Norm, like Kathryn, I think you are good people as well. Your comments seem valid and give another point of view, much different that what is apparently going on in other cities. Naturally, one would not expect the OC protesters to behave in the same manner as the Oakland group has or so it has been reported.

    My question is this. You are a teacher of 6th graders, a young and impressionable group who are still in the process of developing their core beliefs and influences from a popular teacher can have a definite impact.

    My question – will you use your experience for an in-class discussion and how will you express your opinions and views?

    If you do, will you tell your students you support the protesters and believe they are correct in everything they are trying to say or will you offer an open ended discussion with everyone being able to discuss and openly express their own thoughts and opinions?

    Or, will you stick to teaching science and leave the politics at the door? After all, your students who are aware and have either read the newspaper account will most likely be curious and ask questions in class. How will you handle it?

  5. Norm Ivey


    I keep my politics out of the classroom. The Occupy movement has little that meshes with my content. In 6th grade our topics are inquiry skills, plant and animal adaptations, conservation of energy, and weather. It’s my job to help my kids look at the world with a measure of skepticism–the basis of science. Global warming is about as controversial as we get (though it shouldn’t be controversial at all). We discuss global warming as a component of the greenhouse effect. I present different explanations (man-made, cycles, sunspots) and ask my students to research the different explanations. We discuss how to evaluate the reliability of a source and how to fact-check claims.

    For the record, a few colleagues asked about the article today, but none of my students mentioned it. They’re more interested in if I saw a ball game over the weekend or what kind of music I listen to.

  6. Bart

    @Norm Ivey,

    You are a good teacher. My kids would have been fortunate to have you as a teacher when they were in school.

    A simple “Thank You” is all I can say.


  7. `Kathryn Fenner

    Hey, Norm. I have a question for your scientists: the pond/marsh over at Congaree Creek Heritage preserve–over along the edge near the 12th St extension, has been rapidly (over the last 2-3 years) filling up with vegetation–it used to be definitely a pond. Last year there were a lot more lilies. Now there’s a lot more grasses. Is this b/c of the drought, natural succession, the Amazon construction or global warming? How can you know?

  8. Norm Ivey


    Good question. I will propose this as a question for my kids. We are just finishing our plant unit, and it will make a good research assignment. We don’t have the resources to really find out, but I can get them to investigate the possibilities you suggested (and others).

    My first suspect would be fertilizer runoff or the construction. Runoff may carry a double whammy for the pond–fertilizer that encourages plant growth and other chemicals that reduce herbivorous animal populations (fish, mostly, for a pond). It’s hard to attribute any single phenomenon to global warming, especially around here. The evidence that will accumulate in our climate zone will be increased droughts or precipitation or both. Global warming evidence is more striking in very cold climates (melting permafrost, glaciers and ice caps) or at high altitudes where the range of organisms (especially insects) is limited by cold temperatures.


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