Stopping by FedEx to pick up my welcoming Occupy Supply box of goodies, I proceeded to Legislative Plaza, site of Occupy Nashville to meet with and learn about the little community that could. Occupy Supply was a (very welcome) revelation to most there, as was FDL itself.
After a rough beginning, ON has managed to become the longest continuous 24/7 occupation of a single site in the country. They’ve managed to accomplish this with grit, determination, and a very remarkable group of people.
One recent activity involved the “People’s Bribe,” in which Tennessee’s “people” friendly legislature made it much easier for those “people” to speak to them. Occupiers, some foreclosed on themselves, have also stepped up to help out some of those facing foreclosure and eviction, including camping out, holding a potluck dinner, and confronting the lawyers representing Chase bank, who are trying to put a 78 year old woman out on the street.
Support breeds support, and ON has earned positive community backing, but they still could use some help. Consisting of about 40-50 total sleepers in approximately 60 tents spread across the plaza, they also have a library, media and medical tents, a tent for guests, and a kitchen. Power is supplied by a generator (which costs about $85 a week to operate, and can only run between 5:30 to 6:00 am), and a collection of auto batteries. Food is mainly cooked with propane (open flame fires are illegal) and sometimes kerosene. They could use some decent cookware, as I was told what they have isn’t heavy enough and will burn easily and then ruin the taste of the food.
The police have become much more friendly after the infamous 3 am visits. After initially encouraging the homeless to go there, and then playing hard to get when trouble ensued, they now work with the occupiers to help keep the campsite safe. Legislative Plaza is state property, and State Troopers police it, but thanks to the occupiers’ goodwill, both state and city police view them much more favorably. More surprisingly, some legislators have stopped by and a few have even donated. One concern, in spite of the good relations, is that the legislature may actually do something and move to outlaw the occupation.
This has been a far milder winter than last, but temperatures have been in the teens and twenties at night recently. Of course, Nashville weather is like NASCAR, which can go from 0 to 60 in a heartbeat, usually accompanied by strong winds, which have blown tents over. Our weather pattern here normally consists of a a cold front sweeping in behind a wall of rain and/or snow from the NW, followed by a warming trend, then rinse and repeat. This year has seen more bone-chilling raw weather from the SW so far. Legislative Plaza’s main flaw for the occupiers is that its floor consists of granite blocks, which absorb and retain the cold.
They’ve also kept the local media interested, with both TV and print stopping by almost daily. The State Capital is a tourist attraction, and as they pass through, they take a lot of pictures and videos, and talk to the occupiers. As did I. And like them, I’m better because I did.
I’ll let Porter have the last word.