So to continue the story, after I went home to sleep after being released from custody, folks continued to occupy the sidewalk next to the capitol grounds we had been evicted from. We have had 24/7 at least a few people on that sidewalk. Sunday I returned to the occupation around 5 in the afternoon to find around 40 or so.
I learned the cops had dictated rules that no one could sit down or lay down on the sidewalk. I found many provisions had been set up, and we were stocked well with food, water, and medical supplies. I remained there until 6am the next morning. At 5 am ABC local news had set up there camera to do a piece on the on going occupation for their morning show. They asked us if we wanted to be interviewed at 5am and then a second time at 6am. I agreed to to the first one and considering how tired I was it went pretty well.
One funny moment to me was that the reporter started the piece before he turned to me with commenting that there were less than 24 protesters there now. He clearly was trying to make it sound like that was bad. I found that pretty funny because I thought having 20 or so of us standing all night and still there at 5am was damn good. Its amazing how helpful everyone is and how much we all pool our resources. I doubt I would have made it had one occupier had not given me some meds for my back which was really starting to hurt by around 1-2am. After the 6 am interview someone else did I decided I needed to go home and get some sleep.
When I got up later that day I went out and bought some new waterproof boots because tomorrow night the rain starts and its going to be pretty heavy it sounds like for Tuesday night and all of Wednesday. I have a really kickass rain coat so I know I would be able to continue the occupation without issue during the rain as long as I could keep my feet relatively dry. As I got ready to return to the occupation around 5pm, an emergency call went out that the cops where telling the occupiers they had to remove the food and some of the gear/supplies. People were clearly frantic that this was a prelude to evicting the occupiers from the sidewalk.
They put out the numbers to call of the mayor and other governmental departments involved and those of us not there swamped their lines. Also they put out the emails of city council folks and many of us sent emails requesting they stop violating the occupiers First Amendment rights and to stop hassling them in general and allow them to return to the capitol grounds. I later learned that the attorney thats helping us also made a point of telling the powers that be that he found it completely unacceptable that the police were forcing elderly occupiers and a disabled occupier to stand the whole time.
By the time I got back to the occupation around 6pm everything had calmed down. I am not sure what did it, but the police completely changed their tune. Now we were able to sit in the lawn chairs we had, but couldnt sit on the ground. But then when people started sitting on the sidewalk anyway, the cops ignored it. Before that they would swoop in and tell you you had to stand up immediately. The only thing we had to make sure to do was to keep a path clear enough for others to use the sidewalk and to keep people for walking in the street. I was there tonight (10/17) until midnight or so and the cops didnt bother us even once. Hell they even let someone play a guitar which they wouldnt allow before.
The attorney was authorized by the General Assembly to begin dealing with the city and state bureaucrats on our behalf to get us permission to move back onto the capitol grounds (controlled by the state agencies) and also in the meantime get a clear idea of what we can and cannot do on the sidewalk so it doesnt change by the hour (controlled by city agencies). We had easily 70 folks at the GA today at 6:30pm, and there were about 20 or so folks staying overnight again when I left. Since I know I am going to spend a lot of time occupying during the rain, I decided I wanted to get a lot of rest tonight to be ready for it.
It feels like we are winning the right to establish the occupation on the capitol grounds. Arresting us didnt work. Making it uncomfortable to occupy the sidewalk didnt work. I dont think the powers that be have any idea what to do. It helps us as well that in Chapel-Hill, 30 minutes down the road, their occupation has been allowed to remain from the start. I think that makes it harder for Raleigh to treat us radically different. We constantly have people driving by and honking in solidarity. We are getting more and more donations as time goes on. We have made it very clear that no matter what they do we will keep coming back.
I have never met so many incredibly awesome people in such a short time. I went from being mostly a recluse to having at least 10 people I already consider good friends and many more acquaintances. Some people came because of the personal hardships in their own life. Some came because they were part of the system thats broken and couldnt take it, left, and now see the movement as a chance to fix what they saw first hand was so broken. Some come because they just know something is wrong. Some come to fight for their children’s future. We have had several homeless come by and we feed them and give them water. We had a bus driver that would honk everytime they went by. The cops warned them to stop yet they kept doing it. After the bus went by and honked again I saw one cop move toward the light where the bus would stop on a red, I guess to warn them again, but it was green light so the cop turned back. Meanwhile the other cop immediately got on a phone I think to report them. So I circled around the block and flagged the bus down before it made another pass and warned the driver so they stopped honking.
The 1% have no clue what to do. This movement is growing exponentially and people are ready to do whatever it takes to keep it going. So many people have been dealing with so much hardship that the strain of being part of the occupations is nothing new and they get a lot of support and joy from doing it. People who cant occupy drop off water, coffee, etc. I met this awesome guy who said that when he heard me at one of the planning GA’s mention going to get credit union brochures to hand out at the rally knew he wanted to get up with me. I have sort of become his point man because he says he doesnt really like being in the spotlight but can do a lot to help. He already brought me the name of one women who wants to donate, which I passed along to our finance committee. He has two more interested as well.
This is one of the most amazing things I have ever been a part of. I cant recommend enough you visit your local occupation to check it out. Drop off some bottles of water for them and hang out and chat for an hour. This is the movement of our lifetimes. Don’t stand on the sidelines.
[Editor's Note - we took the liberty to add media to this fine diary. Be sure to read Part 1 of this compelling activism here.]