Saturday, January 21, 2012

Occupy Iowa City Struggling to Locate People Willing to Occupy College Green Park

From the beginning, Occupy Iowa City has experienced a fair amount of support from the local Iowa City government compared to Occupy groups in most other areas of the country. Other cities like New York, Los Angeles, Des Moines, and Cedar Rapids have done everything they could to hinder their Occupy movements. Iowa City has allowed Occupy Iowa City the opportunity to camp out at College Green Park since it began back in October.

Ironically, KCJJ reports today that Occupy Iowa City may have finally run into a problem of it's own creation that threatens their continued existence as an occupying movement. Almost none of the Occupy Iowa City protesters are occupying College Green Park anymore:
Attempts to renew a four-month permit for Occupy Iowa City to protest at College Green Park could hit a snag: Most of the protestors aren’t there anymore.

The group’s current permit expires on February 28th. Iowa City Director of Parks and Recreation Mark Moran says any request for renewal would involve a review of how well Occupy Iowa City members followed the requirements of the current permit. Moran notes that most of the original protestors have returned to their homes and have been replaced by homeless people not associated with the group, something that could hurt efforts for a permit renewal.

Dozens of Occupy members still meet twice weekly at indoor locations away from the park. Occupy Iowa City began scaling back their presence in the park last month after multiple skirmishes with the homeless. The group was also forced to take down a makeshift kitchen after the homeless began eating their food.
Which prompted me to summarize on Twitter:
@KCJJ Most of original @OccupyIowaCity folks've left CollegeGreenPark & been replaced by homeless. #IowaCity okay w/occupiers, not homeless.
I guess I don't see why it's okay for the city to allow a bunch of folks with a political message to set up a camp in the middle of a city park, but it's no longer okay for folks to camp in the middle of the same city park when they're there because they have no place else to live. It's the same tents. It's the same liability issues. The biggest difference is that there are fewer signs and a lack of biweekly community gatherings.

It throws into question for me the whole "We are the 99%" meme. Who are the homeless if not part of the 99%? The makeshift kitchen was established to feed those camping at the park. And yet people complained when homeless people sharing the campsite attempted to share the food.

I shared Occupy Iowa City's Statement of Principles when I last wrote about them. Their third principle affirmed the need for safe and affordable housing for all people -- something the homeless occupiers here in Iowa City currently lack. Their ninth principle called for equitable distribution of all resources -- something they declined to do when they shut down their kitchen area. I have always been a bit jaded when it's come to the Occupy Movement -- especially the local Occupy Movement. The shut-down of their kitchen, relocation of their organizational meetings, and abandonment of their occupying camp just strikes me of a form of elitism.

I am curious to see what will happen when the city of Iowa City finally makes a decision about renewing the Occupy Iowa City permit to use College Green Park and I'm equally curious how that group will respond if their permit is formally dropped after they'd -- for the most part -- informally abandoned it themselves.

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