Yesterday, after a long day of internal discussions and negotiations with police at #OccupySLC as to our next steps, it began to snow. Friday, Mayor Becker issued an order shutting down one of our Occupy SLC camps at sundown Saturday.
Occupiers had little time to break down their tents. Many did not have anywhere to put their belongings as many in the population are homeless and many places won’t let you bring in possessions. The hesitation to leave the park was due to the uncertainty of where to go and an optimism of continued, productive negotiations with Chief Burbank. The dumpsters full of camping gear and donated food are an important reminder of what we are fighting for.
Let us remember that Occupy SLC did not choose to be in Pioneer Park which already had a rampant homelessness problem. Police exacerbated the issue by dropping off drunks at the camp late at night. If there was any increase in crime, you can thank the tactics the city took to push us out of the park. FYI – Money was raised and there were several port-a-potties in the park. Any reports you’ve read about sanitation issues are exaggerated. The supposed fight with 30 people, was actually 5 people. I also find it insulting that 2 days after Mayor Becker’s impressive re-election, this is how he treats his community.
Yesterday’s 18 arrests came after an obnoxious show of intimidation by the police (see photo above). Roads around the park were closed, inconveniencing travelers and dozens of massive police busses were parked at the south side of the park. 50+ police cars were the next line of vehicles. While we support the individuals who make up the police force and choose to work in a profession that aims to protect our rights, we reject the institutionalized police state that has created the prison-industrial complex which (coincidentally!) helps generate more homeless.
While allowing us to to be in the park from 8am to 5pm has been discussed with the city, the reason we take exception to this “solution” is that a community isn’t built during business hours. It also assumes that the population has somewhere else to go in the evenings. We have an opportunity here in SLC to draw attention to the homelessness that exists as a symptom of the greed of the 1% in the richest country in the world. I have learned so much about my fellow occupiers by spending time in that park. Camping out is essential to understanding the magnitude of our commitment and the magnitude of the issues at hand. It also keeps SLC’s commitment to this movement visible in our community.
Don’t get me wrong, there are incredible people participating in many ways during this movement. We support a diversity of tactics — but the people who want to camp down there and dig deep into their social conditioning as to how the world treats our homeless, should have the right to do so. I pay taxes, I want to camp on the streets I pay for.
I ran into a good friend at the store today who is on the Board of Directors for the The Road Home, a phenomenal non-profit in our community that deals with the issue of homelessness. Her perspective is important to me and I hold a high amount of respect for her and the services that exist trying to address the homelessness issue. She’s supportive of the Occupy movement but wanted to talk about the services available in town. I explained that the role of Occupy is addressing the system that creates homelessness. We’re going to talk later this week more about the ties between Occupy’s message and how the homeless are affected. I am grateful that Occupy has begun discussion on many of the dysfunctions of the current system.
I want to personally thank John Netto for his generosity yesterday in helping people move some of their belongings into storage and get rides up to Occupy Ogden (where the encampment is on supportive private property and cannot be removed at the whim of the Mayor). John is a successful business person but experienced a period of time in his life where he too was homeless. John bought occupiers pizza, helped with bail and called me this morning to check in on what else he could do. Thank you John.
Shout-out to Occupy Wall Street which unanimously supported our peaceful actions last night.
Mad love to everyone arrested yesterday standing up for their community.
Thank you to everyone who shares our message responsibly with their friends.