What's next? Occupiers ponder the future

Tuesday, November 29 is deadline day for Occupy Charlottesville, but at noon– just six hours before protesters must decide whether to stay in Lee Park in violation of an expired permit or to move to another location– there's still no consensus.

"We just don't know yet," says one Occupier, who declines to be identified before cutting off a reporter's questions to "go check out another option."

Indeed, consensus isn't always easy to reach among the loosely organized group that took up residence in Lee Park on October 15 following the lead of Occupy Wall Street. But if Occupy Charlottesville began as a political rally,  it quickly broadened into an unlikely community, pulling together factions including anarchists, socialists, peace activists, and the homeless.

"Thank God for the camaraderie," says Carey Hicks, a newly homeless unemployed carpenter who moved into Lee Park just before Thanksgiving. Hicks and others say they see value in the Occupation even if, as many critics have pointed out, the mission of the group can't be easily stated.

"Without people coming together like this," Hicks says, "other people, homeless people included, are blind to the magnitude of the problem."

Blake Brame agrees.

A contractor who lives in Afton, Brame, 40, has frequently pitched a tent in Lee Park and says that while he doesn't feel he's part of any one faction of Occupy, the appeal for many of those camping out, particularly the homeless, is simple: a sense of family.

"Sometimes," he says, "human beings just need human beings."

That community is on display on Monday night, November 28, as protesters gather at 6pm for a meeting of the General Assembly. Approximately two dozen people sit in chairs around a fire pit and work their way through the night's agenda. While the decision of where to move is less than 24 hours away, there are other topics to discuss. A working group tentatively called "dismantling white privilege" is forming, says one woman, while a man invites protesters to meet him at Walmart on Saturday to tour the toy section for an event called "Please don't buy war toys." A self-described anarchist announces a book fair, and one of the original park occupiers urges the group to use some of its money for housekeeping.

"The toilets," she says, "are getting gross again."

Standing on the perimeter of the group, several downtown residents observe the proceedings, but they're not in the park to participate.

"It's an interesting case study," says John Hollis, a UVA grad student in engineering who lives two blocks away and says he's watched these General Assembly meetings 20 or 30 times. "It's very similar to how democracy started," he muses, recalling an earlier meeting at which the group discussed creating a Bill of Rights.

Other downtown residents are outspoken about their frustration with the occupation.

"It's gotten to the point where I'm a little angry," says Julie Browman, who's also watching on this warm November evening. Browman says she used to enjoy reading on the Lee Park benches but stopped after smelling marijuana and seeing protesters changing clothes.

"I hope they move," she says, "so I can have my own public space back."

The decision about where– and if– to move will wait for the next day, but images of Occupy protesters being clubbed and tear gassed in other cities have the protesters nervous, particularly after the Department of Corrections posted a warning earlier that day that anyone on probation in the park after the 11pm curfew on Tuesday would face arrest.

"If this isn't the start of a showdown, I don't know what is," says Lyle Farmer, a 26-year-old Charlottesville native who favors an end to capitalism and who's been camping in the park for three weeks.

"They're trying to separate us, little by little," he says. "They're clipping our wings."

Probation officer Jeff Lenert, however, says that's not the case.

"We are simply doing our job to help ensure public safety," he says, noting that while an arrest for trespassing might not be significant for many of the protesters, parolees with suspended sentences face serious ramifications.

On Tuesday, hours before the permit expired, the city granted the protesters an additional 24 hours to exit the park. Mayor Dave Norris expressed hope that they'd leave peacefully and set up at McIntire or some other mutually acceptable location or simply cease the overnight camping and stick to protesting during park hours, 7am to 11pm.

"I'm proud Charlottesville hasn't acted rashly and with force against citizens gathered to speak out," says Norris, "but we also have to balance out different public interests. The neighborhood has a compelling interest in having the park restored."

Read more on: Occupy Charlottesville

26 comments

My mane should heed da advice of his shirt. Mix in a few sit ups wit dem chicken wings, playa

I feel very sorry for those who, through no fault of their own, find themselves homeless. It could easily happen to anyone under the right set of circumstances. However, I feel Occupy Charlottesville is taking advantage of them to increase their numbers and supporters. Just as those who are taken hostage may start siding with their captors, it is logical that those "taken into the fold" and accepted by the Occupiers will also support them. These people are vulnerable.

I think a lot of these people would be happy at Twin Oaks in Louisa, if they really want to work and behave themselves. http://www.twinoaks.org/

I have do comment on the Occupy Movement, but as far as homelessness goes. Thanks to many local businesses that barely pay enough to get by, so you can't save any money due to the high cost of living around here. There are many of us that are a matter of weeks, maybe even days away from being homeless. If I were to lose my job right now. I may be able to pay my rent next month. Based on the last time I was unemployed, I would be on the street in a month or less. Thanks Charlottesville!

I have no comment on the Occupy Movement, but as far as homelessness goes. Thanks to many local businesses that barely pay enough to get by, so you can't save any money due to the high cost of living around here. There are many of us that are a matter of weeks, maybe even days away from being homeless. If I were to lose my job right now. I may be able to pay my rent next month. Based on the last time I was unemployed, I would be on the street in a month or less. Thanks Charlottesville!

It always amazes me the amount of people who don't have any money and are down on their luck always seem to have a source for cigarettes, which are the equivalent of burning money. Just look at the photos and count the number you see smoking.

@ Billy You're among the many in this country in that very same predicament. There is a large percentage of the population that is weeks away from homelessness if they lose their jobs. The fact is the middle class has been eroded to the point that there are only have's and have not's. There are many who blame the homeless and almost homeless for their plight.

I get it, we all have to take care of ourselves and nothing is free and all that. I think the original intent of the protesters nationwide was admirable. The fact is, corporations take a bigger and bigger slice of the pie and don't pay living wages to a lot of the workforce. When I was a kid, my dad worked, my mom stayed home and raised us. One income could put food on the table, buy a new car every few years and pay the mortgage. My dad could count on working his entire life at one job if he chose to. That option, for the most part, no longer exist in this country and no one stays home to raise the kids because it takes two incomes to pay the bills. But to a great many, the less fortunate are just lazy, unmotivated whiners.

If you speak to this fact, you're a "socialist". If we don't do something in this country to help the middle class survive, we will all be at the mercy of the large corporations that run not only our government, but our lives. Just sayin'...

I can't help but notice if I wasn't so stressed out worrying about if I can pay my rent, bills and easily put food on the table, maybe even take a real vacation for once in my professional life I wouldn't be depressed enough to turn to cheap outlets like smoking. "Semi-hypothetical"

That's right Billy. Your decision to smoke is someone else's fault.

Looks like some of the occupiers like to think Charlottesville is Bull Connor's Birmingham in 1963. They seem determined to make fools of themselves by getting arrested and imagining themselves martyrs.
The city has gone out of its way to accomodate the Lee Park protestors, cut them and their hangers-on too much slack, IMHo.
UVa is absolutely correct in denying them the right to camp on UVa property as per today's Daily Progress article.
As for becoming homeless because of job loss: there is this thing called unemployment benefits if you loose your job through no fault of your own. However, what we see around town are all these panhandlers and no-accounts who never worked a day in their lives if they could help it, and expect the rest of us to cough up money for their booze and cigs.
The oocupiers should go, and take all the rest of the riffraff that hang out Downtown, the Corner, Free Bridge/Pantops with them.

How come the one guy lost his driver's license? How come the one guy is smoking? How come the former model was on a roof trying to fix it? Likely all bad decisions. And we blame big business for that?

Fact is, we could support families on one income if government lowered taxes (including all the hidden ones) and got its nose out of regulating businesses. Also, if we became less "instant gratification" oriented and did more with less. It is not just the rich who want it now...it is the poor and middle class as well.

This article did nothing more than increase my antagonism towards these freeloaders. If you live in Afton and cannot find work here, move elsewhere. If you have time to live in a park for a month and are handy with your hands (i.e., a carpenter), learn another trade. There is always a market for hard workers and, with the laziness of the younger generation, employers are certainly looking at the 50+crowd as dependable work.

I love that these freaks are going to camp out by the Free Speech Chalkboard. That thing cost $1 million and does not do a damn bit of good. UVa censors the local media, UVa censors its employees, local government makes backroom deals...real freedom of speech in this town, eh? That $1 mil could have bought a lot of trades training for those losers who wrecked Lee Park.

Ugh!

It's statistically amazing that none of these unfortunate people have a substance abuse problem at the root of their personal dilemma. Or maybe, just maybe, we're not getting all the facts. Hmmmmm.....

They have decided to move the the park across from the Red Rook with Clark's statue. The landowner - UVA - says they are having none of it. The race is on to grab a window seat at Mellow Mushroom and watch the show over a pitcher of beer!

There are bad examples of humanity in every walk of life and at every income level. Bernie Madoff wasn't a saint and neither are some of the people in the occupy movement. Open your eyes and see the bigger picture people. The original movement brought to light some fundamental problems that need to be addressed. As usual, the story ends up being about the "more interesting" people we can find in the crowd.

Judgement says nothing of the judged.

I get the issue about how many people are only a couple of paychecks away from being homeless - if that, because some are literally living paycheck to paycheck - but you do what you gotta do. And if that means getting two, three jobs, then that's what you do. That's what I did, and I was only 18, 19, 20 years old. I had no parents helping me, and most times I had no car. And I was living in SoCal, where everything is spread out, so, good luck with the no car thing. But I did it. And I made it.

Over the years I've encountered very few people who were willing to do what I did back then. When I do meet somebody who is putting in the effort at multiple jobs it always gets my attention and instant respect, because it really is a rare thing. So many people only want to do the bare minimum. They have their one low paying job, then spend the rest of their time loafing about, bitching and moaning that they have no money and they can't get by in life. To them I always think, Maybe if you tried harder and put in more effort you'd succeed.

Yes, it's unfair that we live in a society where one needs to have multiple jobs. Virginia author Barbara Ehrenreich wrote an interesting book about this, called "Nickele and Dimed - On (Not) Getting by in America," which I own because I could relate to the jobs and industries she bounced around at during her experiment. But since that's what it is, then that means you fight. You do what you gotta do. And it's not just a fighting spirit one has to have, you also have to know how to present yourself. Too many people speak, look and behave very rough around the edges, to put it lightly. Get yourself together, speak intelligently, show up to job interviews dressed appropriately, *and on time,* make yourself presentable and hirable.

And if you have no luck in the area where you live getting jobs - then go to a new area. It's as common sense simple as that. "Gee, there are no jobs here. Maybe I should go someplace where there are!"

But that of course requires a fighting spirit, drive, and will to succeed. And if somebody doesn't have that, and they're just a laxadaisal loaf who'd rather loll about moaning and complaining then trying to take action, then what can you do. Meanwhile, like I always say, those kick ass Asians will be manning the convenience stores you'll be panhandling outside of, buying smokes and liquor from.

Give Brandon Collins his props. He is the closest thing they have to a leader. He is a hard working guy (washes dishes) and a very talented musician (B&C) also. He wants to change the world, so he................................. ran for office.

Now then.....................he lost. By a wide margin. So did the self proclaimed "99%" in the statewide General Assembly election earlier this month. By wide margins.

This movement achieved a few good things. People drifted from banks into credit unions, for example. But the elections are over and decided now. At this point, they are becoming a mob trying to force their will onto the real majority. They represent about 10% of America at best. It's getting cold now. Let's get the homeless indoors, and high school girls out of their party tents before something really bad happens like a rape or someone freezing to death..

if and when any of these notesters and occupuds apply for a job, what do they put down as to what they did during this time?

The willfully unemployed in Lee park are providing a sense of family for the homeless - So go home and take the homeless with you. Two problems solved. And, I find it very hard to compare this hobo camp to the aristocrats who conducted organized meetings in their homes and town halls to debate the founding of our nation.

An excerpt of something I posted in another story's comment section:

_____

I'd love a revolution myself, because the world is totally deranged and has long since gone off the rails, but this isn't it. This is just silliness.

In fact, ya know what it kind of reminds me of? *Controlled opposition.* And *useful idiots.*

If people reading this aren't familiar with the terms, look them up. In particular, look up controlled opposition.

"Occupy" seems to me a good way to neutralize the growing public dissent with the way the powers that be are running this world. Reroute the public's anger and energy onto a goofy, passive, liberal hippie fest of alcoholics, drug addicts, homeless panhandlers, whiny emotional chicks, effeminized hippie males and spoiled kids who don't want to or have to work who decide the best way to tell off the world is to go..........camping in a park?

Instead of a revolution that actually matters and truly accomplishes something (ie, the complete overthrow of the U.S. government, and the outing of all the crazed psychopaths who run this world for their own profit) you have goofy little children-in-adults-bodies with emotionally stunted growth whining and camping in a park.

Yeah. That'll show the world.

and it's not even cold yet.............

A working group tentatively called "dismantling white privilege" is forming, says one woman.Funny,as from most of the photos I've seen,very few minorities are present at these rallies or camps.Hey,they need to relocate to Tonsler Park! It is well lit at night (and so are many of the visitors as well.)

Tonsler Park
Tonsler Park

I like that idea (Is it still "sparkle fingers" if you only use one?)

Quiz time.

Q: What do you call homeless people who are alone? A:SOL

Q: What do you call homeless people who band together to protest? A: Heroes, Examples of democratic citizenry in action, and a threat to the institutions in town.

What was the Mantra on the TV show Lost: Live together or die alone.

What is the Virginia State Motto: Sic Semper Tyrannis (Death to Tyrants)

I hope the Occupy movement gets a permit to protest for every day of the week and goes to each neighborhood in Charlottesville to protest on each of those separate days. Take it to the streets, neighborhood by neighborhood.

I admire them for exercising their free speech rights, for advocating for Civil Rights and for peacefully and non-violently protesting.

"There's something happening here, What it is ain't exactly clear. There's a man with a gun over there. Telling me I got to beware. Its time we stop children what's that Sound. Everybody look what's going down."

Citizen Party- The Buffalo Springfield, "For What Its Worth", were actually expressing their thoughts on the Viet Nam War. At least they knew WTF was "happening here"............the occupuds have no clue as to what they are doing, why they are doing and will be gone "in 60 seconds".

Bring it on to all the neighborhoods........ why just Charlottesville?

Citizen Party- I just had to break out my tattered copy of "Nineteen Eight-Four".

As a member of the POUM, Orwell and his Orwellian concepts would seem to be the goal of the occupuds and notesters. They show an aire of zombiance.

I think I've got it.

"Nowhere Man".

He's a real nowhere man,
Sitting in his Nowhere Land,
Making all his nowhere plans
for nobody.

Doesn't have a point of view,
Knows not where he's going to,
Isn't he a bit like you and me?

Nowhere Man please listen,
You don't know what you're missing,
Nowhere Man,the world is at your command!

(lead guitar)

He's as blind as he can be,
Just sees what he wants to see,
Nowhere Man can you see me at all?

Nowhere Man, don't worry,
Take your time, don't hurry,
Leave it all till somebody else
lends you a hand!

Doesn't have a point of view,
Knows not where he's going to,
Isn't he a bit like you and me?

Nowhere Man please listen,
you don't know what you're missing
Nowhere Man, the world is at your command!

He's a real Nowhere Man,
Sitting in his Nowhere Land,
Making all his nowhere plans
for nobody.
Making all his nowhere plans
for nobody.
Making all his nowhere plans
for nobody!