Wednesday, October 12, 2011

OccupySLC Day 6

by Michael Orton
©2011 ImageProviders–All Rights Reserved


Today's "General Assembly" near 3pm was attended by approximately three dozen people and four or five dogs on a balmy and bright October day. The agenda covered committee reports and assignments for their upcoming meetings with public policy makers, some of whom would have been called "the establishment" a generation before.

"We've got 'burners' and 'punks' and the homeless here, and I'll tell you, those 'burners' [regular attenders of the Burning Man festival] know how to get things done without a lot of money," said Alex Roseman, one of Occupy Salt Lake's spokesmen. A stop by the medical tent revealed four young men sorting through supplies, including a newly donated box of rubber gloves for "body substance isolation," which protects first responders from blood borne pathogens. The meals tent showed adequate precautions for sanitation, including a bleach rinse for dishes. Volunteers indicated that the county health inspectors had been by.

Amber, a woman in her mid-twenties, is a part time employee of Salt Lake City's public library. She was soon to leave OccupySLC for work and then to care for her three year old daughter at home. "I'd say that for every person you see here right now, there are two others at their jobs. Many go to their homes at night, and are not here at Pioneer Park full time." When asked about her general financial situation, she said that every pair of shoes she owns has holes in the soles. Amber admitted to be one of the "working poor." Competent and articulate, she works more than one part time job.

William Rutledge, a principle organizer of Occupy SLC indicated that he and his family run a small food processing plant in Sarasota, but that he's been a Salt Lake City resident for the past two years. While speaking to a reporter, Rutledge recognised Salt Lake City PD Deputy Chief Michael Brown strolling through the tent village. "This man is awesome. We're in touch with him and his people every day, sometimes more than once a day."

Kaylee, another twenty-something member of the movement, dressed stylishly and staffing the information tent, said that she feels completely safe in the park. When Brown was asked about upcoming events on Friday, where some dignitaries and public officials will be present to listen to the group, he said that no real plans have been made for additional police presence or deployment. "They [the public officials] already know how to respond to this kind of thing. We won't really have more than our normal bicycle patrols scheduled." Brown's office is less than eight city blocks away from this venue. The occupiers have had a valid city special event permit since Day 1.

Pioneer Park has been the summertime site of the Downtown Farmer's market, held in summer and early fall each Saturday. Brutledge says there's a waiting list of about a year to participate. Looking out over the tent city presently occupying the same space the market does, he says, "This will all be gone on Friday nite, to return on Sunday." This is an indication of Occupy Salt Lake's organization and its non-violent cooperation with the police department. "We're not a mob," he smiles, "We're a movement." Whether he understood it or not, it was an indirect reference to recent comments by congressional leaders and others around the nation who have called the OccupyWallStreet participants an unwashed "mob." Policy makers like Eric Cantor have been walking comments like these back, perhaps because they're hearing from sympathetic constituents.

OccupySLC is presently making plans to remain in Pioneer Park into winter.

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