Friday, February 17, 2012

Occupy Iowa City Will Leave College Green Park

I have written a couple times recently about the ups and downs of Occupy Iowa City. Earlier this week, we learned that the City of Iowa City denied Occupy Iowa City’s application for a renewal of its current four-month permit to occupy College Green Park. The city is concerned about the damage that’s been caused to the park’s turf. They’re concerned about the health and safety of the people staying at the park over night. And they’re concerned about the amount of police time at the park to respond to drunken behavior, fights, thefts, and other problems.

Occupy Iowa City was instructed to vacate College Green Park by March 1st. It was unclear how Occupy Iowa City would respond to this permit denial. The only thing I could find was that their general assembly would meet on Thursday this week to discuss options and come to a consensus.

Thursday has come and gone and it appears that Occupy Iowa City has decided to not appeal the permit denial. Iowa City Patch has the scoop this morning:
Ten cold but good-spirited Occupy members gathered for a general assembly in the College Green Park pavilion Thursday night to decide if the group should file an appeal to the city's decision to not renew Occupy Iowa City's permit to stay in the park. The consensus: There should be no appeal...

Beyond this consensus, feelings toward the park and the end of the occupation were decidedly mixed. This was particularly true when it came to deciding what to do with the homeless people who have used the camp's tents for shelter from the cold.

Five months ago, when Occupy Iowa City first occupied College Green Park, the camp served not just as a local symbol of the movement, but also as a logistical center where the group could meet, plan events, and engage in dialogue with the community and each other.

During the assembly, Occupy member Sean Adams-Hitt, 30, said that now the park occupation has transitioned from being a staging area for the movement to a logistical challenge that has taken too much focus away from spreading the ideas that started the movement in the first place -- wealth inequality, the eroding of the middle class and corporate control of government…

Occupy member Mauro Heck agreed. "Even if there are no physical tents here, we can still use the park as a symbolic headquarters for our meetings," he said. "Let's move on with issues, and organize and demonstrate and do what we really want to do."

Although all ten members in attendance seemed to be in agreement that the camp should come to an end, there was mixed feelings on two major accounts. One, they agreed that there should be some more planning for the best way for Occupy to leave the camp while still taking positive steps going forward, and two, what should be done to help the homeless who have taken shelter at the camp, many of whom would be left after Feb. 29 without a place to go with at least a month of cold left to go.

Some Occupy members suggested filing the permit appeal to go before the council so the issue of the homeless could be addressed with them. The majority disagreed with this course of action, however, arguing that it would be better for the Occupy members to help the homeless at the camp directly, when help was appropriate…

The consensus of the assembly was how this would be accomplished would have to be fleshed out in later discussions. Also to be determined is the exact plan for how to group up and take down the tents together ahead of the Feb. 29 deadline.
Occupy Iowa City’s tent city will come down within the next couple weeks, but their presence will likely continue in some form or another. Personally, I think this is a good decision. Occupy Iowa City is personified by that park camp. It's hard to argue that Occupy Iowa City is an actual movement when almost nobody is actually present at the movement's headquarters. Shedding themselves of the camp will allow Occupy Iowa City the opportunity to focus on its mission and its message, instead of struggling to maintain a ghost town.

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