Final Visit with (first)) Occupy Bloomington encampment

Update 1/6/12: Today’s Herald-Times had another huge, bold — and this time, all caps! — at the top of the front page: “SLOW EXIT: Many Occupy tents gone, but some remain as mayor takes cooperative approach to clearing Peoples Park.” I admire his diplomacy. The mayor also says that the Occupiers say they want to clean up the park themselves, and that that’s okay with him. Meanwhile, on Occupy Bloomington fb page, I discover a comment that sets the record straight: there is a detox center here in Bloomington, Amythyst House, a United Way non-profit. The Occupiers say that they may establish another camp, soon. I hope so! Really appreciate the edge Occupy camps set up with life-as-usual, as well as the implicit, constant reminder that so much of what used to be public “commons” has been privatized.

Tacked to a post at 6:30 p.m. last night, by two policemen.

11:30 am this morning, 30 minutes before scheduled eviction. Big media hotographers and iPhones abounded. Note below left.

Another gleeful front page, top headline in this morning’s local Herald-Times. (See this, for another one.) This one bold: “Occupy camp ordered out of park.” A photo of the city council meeting last night packed with protestors accompanied it, identifying the one protestor who was charged, from the police action New Years Eve, sitting “left front.”

Early this morning I had received a press release email from the Occupy Bloomington press corps, with a video showing the police behavior as they threw this man to the ground and tackled him. It was late at night, very dim, hard to see. One of the female voices sounds so hoarse and furious that it made me cringe. I felt for the police. And for the guy on the ground. And for the whole sorry scene. And for our civil rights. Here it is. This man has been charged with two felonies. The police say he injured two policemen! (Hard to see that on this video. True?) The other two arrested were released without charge.

I am struck by how the edge between homelessness and the protestors has dissolved during the 88 days of this Occupy encampment. I remember my own class-horror, when I arrived at the camp on the first day and saw lots of nasty signs, and then discovered they had been made by the homeless who had considered People’s Park their home (though not allowed to camp there until Occupy took over). Then they started to get fed, and to make friends, and to connect. The Occupiers started to connect with them, and to feel for their plight, as “the disappeared” within our midwestern college town. Not until several months had gone by did the Occupiers get portable toilets. Going without isn’t so bad for those who can afford to get a bagel when they go into a nearby shop to use the bathroom. But what about the homeless? Are they supposed to not need to use the bathroom? (On the other hand, how, I have asked myself for years, can so many homeless people afford cigarettes and liquor? Something doesn’t compute.)

This morning I looked on the Occupy Bloomington fb page and discovered this [sorry for weird formatting; scroll back and forth to get it]:

On January 4th at 6:30pm, two Bloomington Police officers posted notices at People’s Park which indicated that the park must be cleared of personal belongings at 12pm on Thursday, January 5th.

On January 4th at 11:30pm, individuals began arriving at People’s Park. The large tent and covered wood stove were removed by many self-identified ‘Occupiers’ and others. Individuals began taking their items home.

Kathy Canada, the original owner of the park, stated: “The park is not the main issue. Getting the lobbyists out of government and the unfair influence that corporations have in Washington is the central issue. You don't need the park to stage a protest, and the weather won't stay cold forever. ”

Charlie Poole, a self-identified ‘Occupier’ who frequently stays the park during the night, stated: “Most of us have chosen to move the tents out and leave voluntary. And although I feel personally that Mayor Kruzan’s eviction was a betrayal, it was not a betrayal of those protestors, but a betrayal of the homeless who do not have low barrier shelters and have no detox center to go to.”

Taquita Jeffries, a self-identified ‘Occupier’ who does not frequently stay the park, stated: “The main concern is the people who need this detox center which is not existent in this town. People need places to go. No one wants to offer them a home. I’m tired of people being treated unequally. The town, country, world all need a huge change.”

On January 5th at 11am, individuals began gathering in the park to make signs. Some read, "Jail is the Only Detox," "You Can't Evict Compassion," and "Occupy Your Hearts."

At the city council meeting, Occupy supporters said they were concerned about the homeless, who had been camping with them, and now will have nowhere to go in January’s cold, since some of them are alcoholic, thus not admitted into regular shelters, and, as the protestors pointed out, there is no detox program in this town.

Then, later this morning, another message on the fb page: people were needed NOW, because there were only about 12 Occupiers there to take everything down and huge numbers of press. So I dropped everything and went down there, arriving 30 minutes prior to noon deadline.

I walked into a scene that was amazingly upbeat and calm. I noticed two new tents being erected! (Huh?) “Wal-Mart specials,” said the man with whom I helped erect them. I noticed Charis, one of the very visible Occupiers, with whom I helped organize the supply tent months ago. She was busy helping others write phone numbers on their arms while fending off a H-T reporter, having been frequently misquoted in that paper. Given that those two tents were being put up rather than taken down, I asked her if there was a plan. She said she couldn’t say.

Others had scarves pulled over their faces. One Occupier said he couldn’t afford to be there when the police came. Not sure why. Some were obviously just there to watch. Lots of conversations. A few tents still being dismantled. I helped to dismantle one which, its owner said, he had left there for the homeless and asked them not to drink in his tent. It was a huge mess inside, lots of cigarette butts and liquor bottles . . . But he seemed okay about it. And there weren’t any tears or holes.

Otherwise, I felt pretty useless. Sidled up to two photographers with serious cameras. One of them, a grey-hair about my age, said, “Reminds me of Chicago.” “Yes,” I responded, “reminds me of the olden days.” I asked if he had seen anything by Chris Hedges (I’m still watching the recent 3-hour interview with him). He had not.

A few minutes after I arrived, a musician started up on a keyboard, and was soon joined by others. Really good and loud and defiant.

Musician starts up, in front of the red and white tent (that I helped to take down).

I walked around. Lots of sign-making. Note the trumpet on the bench.

Appreciated this sign, and the sweet young man who made it.

Every few minutes, someone would yell out, “mic check.” And announce the time: fifteen minutes to go, ten minutes to go, five minutes . . . in anticipation of the police.

By the time it was two minutes to go, the music had segued into a plaintive ballad by a beautiful long-haired singer. I tried, and failed, to get a video. Meditators were sitting on top of the sign.

By now it was about 12:20 p.m., and clear that the police were not going to come at noon. The grey-hair and I convened again, and agreed that they probably wouldn’t come until nightfall. An Occupier standing with us said she knew of some people that were going to sit out there all night, if necessary, with cameras.

It was time for me to go, but not before taking a picture of the car that was parked in front of mine.

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