Occupy just had their “Illuminator” van repossessed by Ben Cohen of “Ben and Jerry’s” fame.
A year ago, Ben and Jerry’s formed a group, the “Movement Resource Group”, designed to help underwrite Occupy projects of which the group approved. Ben Cohen was an instrumental part of leading the group.
One project to come out of the relationship with Occupy was “The Illuminator”. In a February meeting, Mark Read, an adjunct professor of media studies at NYU, was discussing the idea of putting a projector on a movable van to help illuminate Occupy messages on buildings at various actions. Ben Cohen, who led the MRG, agreed to fund the idea and came to an agreement with the Occupiers.
The agreement discussed the Illuminator and another vehicle which was later abandoned. Cohen agreed to contribute as much as $65,000 toward the development of the cars. This included paying Read $250 per day to launch the operation. The vehicles would be owned by MRG.
According to DNA Info, a separate document which set forth goals for the Illuminator, stated that the purpose was
to “put a friendly non threatening face” on the Occupy movement and “generate good will” with the public by slowly cruising the city, projecting the “99%” signal, playing “family friendly music,” and stopping occasionally to serve hot chocolate and pass out Occupy-themed comic books.
After the Illuminator started in March, problems quickly developed. Read and a team of volunteers were running it three times a week. Cohen expected that they would do it 5-6 days a week, for six hours a day, as was set forth in the agreement.
Read and the crew of volunteers that were involved came to feel that this was unfair, despite the fact that they had agreed to it. According to them, Cohen wanted more control over use of the van and wanted it to be focused on being a “mobile billboard for Occupy”, whereas the Illuminator team felt it should be used for any progressive cause. They had even used it in a fight over expansion at NYU.
According to DNA Info:
After a “full-out custody battle” in May, the two sides agreed to share the van until the end of September, after which Cohen and the Movement Resource Group would gain full control of it, Read said. “To a person, I think we all feel kind of betrayed and disappointed,” he said. “He didn’t want to have to bother with the messy part of being in a democracy”. “He’s a 1 percenter,” Read, 46, added, “telling the 99 percent, ‘I’m your boss.’”
The Illuminator team released a statement, thanking him for his support, but expressing their disappointment. They also stated that they will continue with the idea of using illumination, but seek more “crowd funding” to support their endeavors in the future.