Goncalves at the center of Occupy Seattle

By AnhViet Nguyen

Hunter Goncalves

A little over a year ago, then-junior, Hunter Goncalves was the girl’s swim captain competing for a state swim title. Now, instead of swimming, the 17-year-old Goncalves is actively involved in the Occupy Seattle protests.

She grew up in a politically active family and has participated in protests in the past-although not on the same scale as the Occupy movement. Her parents were generally supportive of her joining the protests.

“They just told me ‘don’t get arrested’,” Goncalves said.

She loves history but “wasn’t really inspired by anything” she was learning in school.

“Typical civil rights activists don’t really interest me other than that they are fighting for something they believe in,” Goncalves said.

 

The Incident

On Tuesday Nov. 15, Goncalves was arrested for allegedly attempting to swing a stick at a police officer. Multiple reports from various media outlets say that the 17-year-old teenage protester did not hit the officer but was grabbed by another officer on a bicycle.

The story doesn’t end there.

According to Goncalves, “I was arrested for literally stepping over the yellow line in the road. I was assaulted by one member of our altruistic [Seattle Police Department], who grabbed a black flag I was waving, pulled me across his bicycle, and dragged me around. Several comrades grabbed me in an attempt to pull me from the SPD’s grip, but the SPD whipped out pepper spray and sprayed them all.”

These were not the only people who were pepper-sprayed by the police. Later that day, an 84-year-old woman and a pregnant woman were both pepper-sprayed by Seattle police officers at the Occupy protests. Those incidents were widely reported on local and national media.

Goncalves was not held on bail because she is still a minor, but she said that several of her friends were arrested and held on bail. Goncalves’ parents had mixed reactions following the incident.

“[To] my dad, it just felt humorous for some reason. My mom was initially very angry but she calmed down after talking to people that were around me,” she said.

 

Personal Motivation

Goncalves has a multitude of reasons why she decided to forgo her senior year of swimming and to participate in the Occupy Seattle movement, which is growing day by day.

“America is corrupt, there’s no arguing that, and the list of reasons I have for protesting are almost infinite. The divide between the ultra rich and the people who can’t afford food is widening at a disgustingly uprising rate,” Goncalves said. “The middle class is almost nonexistent, yet there is still the dumb puritanical belief that America is a place where opportunity is abundant and where if you work hard enough, you can succeed, which is simply not true anymore and has been proven as not true by years and years of social and economical research, which people with privilege and legislative abilities, the people in power, simply ignore, and screw the rest of us over.”

She said she cannot stand the lack of progress in America. She does not understand why our elected “leaders” are motivated by myriad amounts of money, instead of serving the people.

“There still is a social stigma even within populations of people in poverty that poverty is a result of being lazy, which leads to a culture where we ignore it for the most part and feel slightly guilty about but for the most part just kind of wish it goes away,” Goncalves said.

This is just one of many reasons Goncalves brought up in an interview on Monday. She also said she feels strongly against the ideas of capitalism and monopolies. The economy, she said, has been “disassociated from reality.”

Protesting in Seattle

During her phone interview with the Hawkeye on Monday evening, she sat out on the rooftop of a house on 23rd Avenue and Alder Street, which happens to be directly across from Garfield H.S. in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. The group has also occupied a building on 10th Avenue and Union Street.

She makes the trip down to Seattle whenever she can to join her fellow “comrades”.

“We have moved into neighborhoods and [our] mentality [is to] utilize graffiti and resistance and property destruction to our ends,” she said, although she realizes that many people may not be fond of those actions.

She plans on joining port laborers, who cannot unionize, in the West Coast Port Strike on Dec. 12 as well, and encourages anyone to come.

“Occupy is a mindset, so start living by it. Refuse norms, work against capitalism, and fight oppression in every form. Everyone has an undeniable right to live without having to subject themselves to an absurd amount of struggle,” Goncalves said. “Build networks, find people who share your ideas, talk with each other and begin organizing. Change is inevitable, be a part of it!”

 

Current status

Goncalves has been heavily involved with Occupy Seattle events since November.

Yesterday, in fact, she decided to drop all three of her classes at MTHS and transfer all credits to Seattle Central Community College, which ironically is a controversial public area currently occupied by protestors.

Seattle Central Community College has been trying to evict about 100 campers for several months now, as sanitation and security issues have cost the college about $20,000 a week.

Goncalves will continue to protest against what she feels are unacceptable social norms.

“From a more philosophical stance, we are born, live and then die. In that time period, we suffer enormous hardships, have to deal with failing social expectations, and are told we have to work our backs off to be happy. We are never completely happy and we are never completely free; we are always constrained by people telling us to do this and to do that, we never completely own anything, our profits are never ours, no matter how much you try to convince yourself. Otherwise you are always striving to fulfill some unfillable ideal of how to live; you are always striving towards someone else’s insatiable and unattainable goal,” Goncalves said. “I don’t want to live like that. I want to be myself, I want to be free from this bullshit. So, is that really what we’re supposed to do with our lives? Life is precious, I don’t believe in an afterlife and I don’t believe in doing things you’re not totally enthusiastic about. What a depressing species we have become.”

As of now, Goncalves won’t back down from what she has said.

There isn’t a clear solution or an end in sight.

She will continue to fight by protesting, even if there are others who may not share her same viewpoint.