Occupy Iowa City members must move out of College Green Park by the end of the month, the city manager’s office said Monday. The city has denied the group’s application to renew the four-month permit that had allowed members to stay overnight in the park since last fall.According to their Facebook page, Occupy Iowa City's general assembly will gather on Thursday to discuss options.
City Manager Tom Markus laid out a series of reasons for the decision. Among them are “significant damage” to the park’s turf; health and safety concerns; and a disproportionate use of police resources to respond to drunk individuals, fights, thefts and other problems at the park.
He said the main reason to deny the permit was that the group’s presence diminishes the public’s ability to use the 2.4-acre park a few blocks east of downtown. “At some point, we need to return our park to the public,” he said.
Protestors began occupying the park in October as part of the Occupy Wall Street movement that started over concerns of economic inequality. Once winter set in, few protestors stayed in the park, and the handful who did were mostly homeless people.
With snow falling early Monday afternoon, only one person was found among the two dozen tents set up in the park. The middle-aged woman declined to give her name but said she was one of just a couple true Occupy Iowa City members to still be spending nights in the park. She also said a few people have given the group a bad reputation by causing problems with drinking and fighting.
|The Empty "Occupy Iowa City" Camp|
I'm not saying that the Occupy Iowa City movement should stop, but I do believe that it's time for them to develop a new strategy. Which isn't to say that they have been silent since winter began. Occupy Iowa City protesters have been seen at various locations both before and during the Iowa Caucus and made their opinions known. But beyond that, their most visible contribution to Iowa City has been a trash-filled, crime-ridden campsite. In other words, it's time for Occupy Iowa City to occupy something besides College Green Park -- if for no other reason that to re-brand its identity.