Thursday, March 8, 2012

Today's Occupy protest rained out but a goodbye press conference

I attended the last day of the Occupy Nashville camp out today. The protest of the day was supposed to be the International Women’s Day Celebration with a 11:30 march from the War Memorial Plaza to the Broadway Bridge. It didn't happen. I arrived in a light drizzle about 11:40 and wondered if I had missed it. There were about a dozen people milling around the Plaza. I was assured I hadn't missed it but no one knew if the march would be taking place or not. While waiting for something to happen, I spoke to several members of Occupy and one thing I asked was if they were camping out and none of the ones I spoke to were campers. I also asked them if they planned to get arrested and none of them did.

The Occupy camp looked really pitiful in the rain. I counted nine pitched tents and about three or four more that were either tents not pitched or tarps. It was hard to tell. The camp out did not have the feel of a community. Along the west side of the plaza were three tents and a collapsed tent or a tarp, and some distance away in the northeast corner of the plaza were four tents and far to the south of the plaza was another tent. They were widely scattered.

Gradually more members of the press arrived and joined the press already milling about and the group moved to the War Memorial Building portico where the protesters held a press conference. By this time there were about 15 members of Occupy and about twice that many members of the press and the drizzle had turned into a heavy rain.

Jason Steen plans to be arrested
Several speakers spoke, each attacking the bill that makes it illegal to camp in places not dedicated as camping places. The attack on the legislation was focused on the impact it would have on the homeless. A lengthy statement was read which said that instead of punishing people for "experiencing homelessness" by such acts as sleeping, eating or camping, that government should end homelessness. The letter had been signed by several prominent homeless advocates. Little was said about the legislation being an attempt to silence protesters; almost all the comments addressed homelessness.  Jason Steen spoke and said he would be camping tonight and was planning on being arrested.
Elizabeth Barger, the Tennessee organizer of  Code Pink, was going to take part in the Women's Event which was to include some dancing. She said it would have to be postponed. "We couldn't dance in this rain," she said. "We would break our neck."  She said she had not camped out saying she was getting to old for that.

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