Good Work, Occupy Sandy. But We Can’t Be Seen with You.

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occupy sandy

Photo: Flickr / Michael Fleshman

November 15, 2012; Source: Forbes

In an op-ed published as a blog by Forbes, Gary Shapiro, the president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), a trade association, said that he received some “pushback” from members and colleagues in regards to a proposal for CEA to make a contribution to the American Red Cross to help victims of Superstorm Sandy. Where did the pushback come from? Maybe it was because the ARC was seen by some as so slow in responding to Sandy that the Staten Island borough president told the public not to donate to the Red Cross out of frustration. Maybe it was because of frequent questions about Red Cross financial transparency. But in addition, some people apparently felt that it would have been better for the CEA to give to the Occupy Sandy effort.

Like the CEA’s pushback critics, Shapiro acknowledged that Occupy Sandy activists “responded quickly and mobilized many volunteers to areas affected by the storm… going into houses and helping clean, comfort and assist in any way they could.” They actually got things done for the people of Long Island and Staten Island.

The Occupy people were certainly on-site fast and getting things done, Shapiro contended, but they weren’t efficient. “While the Red Cross may have been slower to mobilize and respond,” he said, “it was certainly more organized and effective.” As evidence, he cited the conclusion of American Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern, who described her organization’s performance in response to Sandy as “flawless.” “(T)he Occupy movement rejects organized hierarchy,” Shapiro observed, “through which people can be assigned various helpful functions.” The problem, according to Shapiro, was that “Occupy Sandy…lacks oversight, accountability or structure.”

There is always lots of commentary about the American Red Cross (ARC) during a disaster, ranging from the overly hagiographic to the bitterly censorious. This commentary from Shapiro is one for the books. He wrote, “The bottom line is that for an organization like CEA – which represents 2,000 corporations and even more personal political interests – there is no way we can make a contribution to anything related to the political mission of the Occupy movement,” Shapiro concluded. He is thankful for the good efforts of the Occupy Sandy people, but his association can’t support them because of, well…it seems…we guess, because…maybe they believe things that the corporate world doesn’t. It’s okay if some non-hierarchically minded Occupy Sandy person helps people suffering from the devastation of Superstorm Sandy, but the corporate world doesn’t want to have any possible association with the Occupy people—because they’re Occupy people.

Is that enough of an explanation for you? It looks like it is for Gary Shapiro.—Rick Cohen

  • Stephanie

    As a former resident of Belle Harbor, Rockaways, NY I have followed what is going on there since Sandy slammed them. The truth of the matter is that it took the ARC around 4 days to even get there – they went to Fort Tilden, which while close to Breezy Point it is at least 50 blocks for anyone in Neponsit to get to and much further for most. No one knew that they were there as there was no phone service, everyone had lost their cars in the storm and there was no public transportation. They did not supply mental/physical health support services there either and now there are PTSS issues in abundance,
    Occupy Sandy on the other hand was there the next day – they pumped out, mucked out, cleaned out people’s homes; they opened a clinic YANA – You Are Not Alone staffed by doctors from NYU and Mt Sinai, and they started cooking/giving away food up until today. The ARC on the other hand, ignored volunteer staffed/managed ‘hubs’, ( ) in early December was the first time THAT hub had even seen them!, among some articles there), they DID show up at a tent (why set up a tent in the winter in the Northeast?) told the volunteers to leave that they were taking over then took the tent down a few days later. MANY people in Rockaway never saw the Red Cross, and it was also not the RC that went up more than 25 dark, cold flights of stairs to deliver food, water, flashlights and batteries to the stranded elderly, they wanted volunteers and resources it was Occupy, Rockaway Youth Task Force, etc. I had hoped that a trailer would replaces it. There has NEVER been ONE shelter in all of The Rockaways. No place to be warm and safe after 4 when most people head home especially in areas where there are no streetlights. The ARC does have very durable tents and trailers in THEIR staging areas which one can see in Staten Island, Floyd Bennet Field, etc – in fact, the people who are living in tents in Staten Island are in the shadow of those tents while the shiver! They would not check on an elderly neighbor in her 90s when a concerned neighbor called them, they often would refer to The Rockaways while talking about Long Island – they did not know their geography. The did not demographic research, evidenced by going into an area of elderly, religious, Jewish residents – one approached their vehicle asking if there was anything kosher and the volunteer proudly told her there was ham an cheese! ALL that money, and no research done!
    Lastly, Occupy had the genius idea of 1) having the Greenpeace bus come by to help them which was solar/wind powered – how come the ARC does not have oNE solar powered anything? Don’t they think there MIGHT be a disaster where there is no electricity or gas for generators? 2) they set up a Sandy Registry on Amazon for many of the things that people need and then they distribute from their hub – how smart is that? 3) if you went block by block in The Rockaways and asked the average person what they thought of the ARC you might want to be wearing armor!
    I will never give the American Red Cross & Red Crescent Society another penny after seeing how they treated my hometown, while they were staying at the Soho Grand for $310/night! Shame on them all!