- an interview with
student activist from
New York City
first met Jack Feinberg on Sunday September 22th
Union Square, where a group
of protestors had gathered to demonstrate against the Roșia
Montana gold mine project. He was holding a sign
and shouting United We
Save Rosia Montana!. I was intrigued by
his exotic presence in the Romanian group and impressed with his
determination - so I instantly wanted to learn more about him.
This interview took place on September 29th, at the end
of a protest where Jack and other activists organized in front of
the residence of Mr John Paulson, whose
hedge fund is the single largest shareholder of
Gabriel Resources Ltd., the
Canadian company who received the license for exploiting Romania's
Roșia Montana gold mine.
How did you get involved
with the protest against Roșia Montana
gold mine exploitation? You're not Romanian -- why are you doing
We can't chose the country
we are born in, and the simple truth is that in all my travels
throughout Europe I identified with Romania and Romanians more
so than any other place or people. In
a way I can't quite explain, eu sunt român.
Maybe because my great grandfather was born in Basarabia.
you visit Romania?
Well, I started traveling
through Europe when I was 24. I started in England, went to
France, Italy...Then I arrived to Romania and I felt a strong
connection with the people. Things fell into place and I stayed
there for one year and a half.
You have been present to
the most, if not every street action here in New York against
the Roșia Montana gold mine exploitation
project. Explain what are you manifesting for and what are your
This is my first political
action of any kind. I see myself as an American involved in
international actions against unsafe mining techniques. With
Roșia, there are two sides of the
problem. First, there is an ecological side, then there is a
political side. The environmental issue is definitely the most
heinous. For Americans, the same thing happened in
Colorado. In 1992, a cyanide spill from the Summitville mine in
southern Colorado killed all life in a 17-mile stretch of the
Alamosa River. Now fracking is a big issue here in New York. On
the political side, Romania
is considered to be one of
the most corrupt countries in Europe, and the administration and
politicians are notorious for situations where they take money
in exchange for services. I think everyone in Bucharest who is
protesting the environmental aspect is also protesting the
So you think that the
core of the political problem has its roots in Romania? The
corruption seems to start from the West in this
I don't think
Romania has a monopoly on corruption. As
a foreign observer, I was shocked to find that any major
institution has a foreign owner. I was very disturbed to see
there were no Romanian owned banks, manufactures, car makers
(Dacia is now owned by Renault), retailers any more. But I guess
this is part of a larger global economy where there are no more
nations, only corporations. But still if you look in America, we
still have Chase, Citibank, GM and so on which are still
essentially American-owned, even though those institutions do a
lot of business abroad. The reverse is true in Romania: business
in that country is essentially controlled by foreign powers, as
it has been for most of its history.
do you hope to achieve with your protest?
One of my
main goals is to let the people in the streets of
Bucuresti know we're here supporting them, and
we care. And I think this is the case
for most people demonstrating
internationally - on the streets of
London, Amsterdam, Brussels, - to
let people in București know that we are
supporting them in their fight. This is
their fight, the fight of Romanian people almost specifically
from BucureȘti, because that's where the
government is. I think my main goal is to give them the strength
to carry on. Now, on the other hand, a strong second goal, as we
protest in NY, we can protest in front of the Hedge Fund who
owns 20% of Gabriel Resources Ltd.
In a way the puppet strings that are manipulating this issue are
here, in NY, which is the finance capital of the world. So if we
protest in front of the Hegde Fund, who
is the main shareholder at Gabriel Resources Ltd,
if we protest in front of John Paulson's
personal house, as we did today, there is a big achievement. We
had a big victory today. Someone found Mr.
Paulson's private address. It was my idea to go to the
Hedge Fund on Friday with the American students. We were a very
small group, we stood there with the big signs and we created a
stir. And today we went to his personal house. The NYPD was all
over us, they created a confrontation. They essentially asked us
to leave the place and go to 5th Ave, away from Mr.
Paulson's house. Billionaires can have the police do what they
you need a special approval to protest?
This is gray area.
Theoretically you only need approval if you are marching in the
streets. We were not marching in the streets and we were less
than 20 people. We believe that we were compliant with the law,
but the police did not. But we had a big victory today. One of
the representatives of Mr. Paulson's
establishment we don't quite know who it was came out and
agreed that if we move away from his house, in exchange he would
write a letter to Hedge Fund addressing our concerns about the
mine and he would give us a written reply.
What were you shouting
in front of Mr. Paulson's house?
We were shouting nothing.
We weren't been disorderly and we weren't making noises, we were
just holding signs and that's it.
most important for an activist?
Of course, to believe the
world can be a better place. To stay energized, not be
discouraged by set backs. I'll tell you more when I'll read this
book that's have been recommended to me, Rules for radicals by
Alensky, considered a handbook for activists. In our NY group we
definitely had set backs, we had moments when we weren't all in
On what issue?
On our message for
instance. Right now we are only about 20 people and still is
difficult to maintain coherence and a sort of leadership.
Everyone wants to have equal contribution, but it's not always
easy to achieve that. I would like to have an event where there
are 500 people demonstrating and marching against this. I want
to do that maybe December 1st or October 19 I don't
know yet. We'll see.
Roșia Montana, do you involve with other
The NYS fracking issue is
closer to me geographically, and impacts me more, but Romania is
closer to my heart, because I have many Romanian friends
manifesting in the streets these days. I volunteer to the NYS
Public Interest Research Group, the most active public interest
group in the state, they campaign against fracking, they
campaign for better public transportation...
Is involvement and
activism something specific to your generation ? This days CUNY
students are clashing with police on General Petraeus, former
director of CIA, which they believe is not suited to teach them.
Well, activism in America
has decreased over the past 50 years, if we agree that the most
active period was in late 60ies here. Are people more conscious
in general, comparing to fifty years ago? I would say no. Being
a constructive member of society has been replaced with
materialism and consumerism and a decrease in civic
What message would you
send to the Romanian activists that are out in the streets
protesting the environmental or political issues around Rosia
I would remind them of what
happened here in New York. Two years ago we had Occupy Wall
Street movement in NYC, the most important public demonstration
of my generation. It faded away. If we want the Romanian
demonstrations to be a success, it's important to focus on some
goals. Try to be realistic. Choose goals that can be
accomplished. You will never eradicate corruption, but you can
demand a more responsible government. On the mine issue, there
is a gold mine there and sooner or later the gold will come out.
But how it comes out that can be controlled. I am not
pessimistic, I am trying to be realistic. An asset that big it's
going to be tapped at some point.
How do you think that
your involvement with Roșia Montană
helps you grow on a personal level?
I guess it's impossible
not to grow from this, since I'm doing things I've never done
before. The end goal is to improve the society, to improve the
world we live in. And connecting with other people like yourself
is the means by which this happens.
So you do believe in the
possibility of a better world!
The world is inherently
imperfect, but we can strive to make it as good as we can.
your daily life changed since you started
I am probably spending more
time on Roșia Montană
than on my school work.
But the academic year is
I'm still behind!
What do you study?
do your parents feel about your involvement?
That's a sort of a Romanian
question. Romanian parents have a great deal of influence on
their children well into their adult lives. In United States,
the general practice is that once you turn 18, you're a whole
person. Although I have a Jewish father, who is very much into
the Romanian vein, but my mother is of
the American philosophy: once you turn 18, what you do is your
Jack Feinberg was born and raised in
New York. He lived in Bucuresti from 2012-2013 during
which time he volunteered for the National Film Archive and the
humanitarian organization Concordia, and contributed to the
newspaper Dilema Veche.
Adina Dabija is a writer living in
New York. From 1997 2000, she worked as a journalist in
Bucharest, then she studied in the master in multimedia
communications program at the Université de Sherbrooke in
Québec, Canada. Since 2001 she has been an editor of