BELFAST, Maine — David Smith traveled to New York City late last week to visit his son Andy, 27, who has been active in the Occupy Wall Street movement since it began a year ago.
Except the Belfast resident hasn’t seen too much of Andy. While speaking on the phone from New York on Tuesday afternoon, David said Andy was next to him one minute and off working on a task the next.
“That’s what happens,” the elder Smith said. “I like to say, ‘I had an Andy Smith sighting.’ I love it and I love to see him.”
Andy, who attended Belfast Area High School, now lives in Brooklyn and works at various part-time jobs, but his passion is helping the Occupy Wall Street movement, volunteering as many as 40 hours a week.
“I feel very proud of him,” David said. “I believe in what the Occupy movement is doing.”
In a letter to the editor submitted to the Bangor Daily News and other papers announcing his trip to New York to visit his son and support his work, Smith noted that the Wall Street encampment “touched a nerve in our country. It opened people’s eyes to the fact that as more and more money rises to the top of the system we are losing our democracy.”
The elder Smith said the top one-tenth of 1 percent on the income ladder “make an [annual] average of about $23 million while 90 percent of us make an average of $30,000.”
David Smith arrived in New York late Thursday, Sept. 13, and the next day attended an event held at Riverside Church, where Martin Luther King spoke in 1967. The panel discussion focused on incarceration, he said, and activist Angela Davis was among the speakers.
“They focused a lot on solitary confinement, which most countries consider torture,” he said.
In his brief visit, David Smith helped the Occupy group with what they call “jail support,” assisting those who have been arrested during acts of civil disobedience to return to freedom. On Monday night, he helped an elderly priest and a woman he believed was a nun after they had been arrested.
“The woman was shaking all over and couldn’t eat her food,” he said. The two had been in jail for 24 hours.
Smith also gave moral support to some occupiers who were protesting in the street trying to disrupt traffic in the financial district.
“I walked along the sidewalk with a group of people,” he said, “determined not to get arrested.”
The police made a large show of force, Smith said. “It’s an incredible thing to see, coming from Belfast.”
The Occupy Wall Street group, though without formal leaders, functions well, Smith said.
“It’s really wonderful to see how well organized the different aspects of Occupy Wall Street are,” he said. He was especially impressed with the group’s commitment to taking care of people.
“They’re taking a lot of responsibility,” Smith said, and emphasizing inclusion. “Andy is the master of that.”
Not everyone was friendly, though. “People yell at them, ‘Get a job!’ It was awful to see a woman snarl at [one man],” he said.
For Andy, his father said, the work remains rewarding. “You get what you need doing what you love,” David said.