Saturday, 5 November 2011

#Occupying The Winter Of Our Discontent

Last night was a particularly brutal one; Mother Nature is either A.) signalling her abiding love of the savage, predator-eat-prey horrors of the free market, or B.) enfolding #OccupySLC in a blanket of temporarily chilly but quite beautiful and eventually insulating snow. I'll leave it up to you, but whichever motivation is at work, the assault/embrace continues as we speak.

Last night around 10:00 PM MST the line between snow and rain had yet to be distinctly crossed, and so that horrible, sludgy half-sleet, bane of tent-dwellers everywhere, was falling hard. I stopped in at the #Occupation at Radio City / the Fed to drop off a comforter and some blankets, and to take part in a group discussion on where things are headed on that front.

 The Tribune has a decent article up in their Money section on the 'new tent city' (I still don't like that term, as real tent cities - inhabited by vast swaths of newly homeless, foreclosed Americans - dot the US landscape with virtually no media coverage). The Trib article is literally the only media coverage on the new occupation of the vacant lot where Radio City used to be, but it hits all the pertinent points:

Occupy SLC protesters who have been demonstrating around the clock in front of Salt Lake City's Federal Reserve Bank at 120 S. State St. have erected a new tent city in a nearby vacant lot. No tents or tarps are allowed directly in front of the Fed building. 
"We've got 10 tents there now," said protester Seth Walker, noting that his Occupy the Fed group picked up trash and mowed weeds to prepare the encampment.

This last is important. The #OccupyTheFed SLC camp is, in part, based on the principle of improving the vacant lot where they've erected their tents, and they're off to a good start. As the article notes:
Radio City Lounge stood on the [vacant] parcel for 63 years until real estate investors demolished the former jazz/dance venue in 2009, said protester Jesse Fruhwirth.
Sure - a jazz, dance, and sodomy venue!

Before it was demolished in 2009, the Radio City Lounge (or 'RC Lounge') was "the oldest gay bar west of the Mississippi," operating as such for at least 61 of its 63 years.

Image ca. 2009 by plasticfootball

At the end of its storied history (which was admittedly somewhat sordid - but what old building doesn't have a few skeletons rattling around the maintenance tunnels?), the RC Lounge was torn down, and since then the vacant lot has been neglected by a series of corporate owners, slowly devolving into a weed-and-hornet-choked nuisance.

One of #OccupyTheFed SLC's goals is to improve this property. They will do this to bring attention to the neglect the property has suffered at the hands of real estate speculators. I don't want - and I'm sure #Occupy also doesn't want - to derail this into a discussion of squatter's rights , but not-plans (because such plans could in a hypothetical situation constitute a possible hypothetical violation of the law) to construct a mural and/or greenhouse - this last not-plan possibly thwarted by weather, but we'll see - have been bandied about.

Another question involved #OTF SLC's General Assembly and its relationship to the larger #OccupySLC General Assembly at Pioneer Park (and also the Working Gatherings at the Downtown Library). The general feeling I got is that it's a totally reasonable idea for each individual encampment - Pioneer Park in one case, Moon Base Alpha as I've affectionately dubbed the #OTF encampment in another - to have its own General Assembly. For the purpose of unity (and especially regarding plans for large actions) it was also generally agreed that there should be a "Super GA" that meets less often, probably at the Downtown Library. From what I understand this plan will be put forward at a coming Working Gathering.

Some sour news as a coda to this. While the meeting at #OTF was wrapping up (someone even brought a delicious chocolate cake!), I got a text from a friend of mine.

All of her gear at Pioneer Park's Base Camp - a camping rig worth a not insubstantial sum of money - had been ripped off. She was hurt and pretty pissed - she's not rich (few of us 99%ers / #Occupants are), and this was a foul thing to do to someone on such a nasty night. She wound up crashing at a friend's nearby for the night.

She is a genuinely good person, a gem even among the generally cool folks at #Occupy. Even though she was a little steamed, she made an excellent point:

"It's snowing and wet," she texted me. "Someone needed that tent more than I did."

1 comment:

  1. Thank you again for your consistent reports and well rounded views. I love that you vote for Moon Base Alpha :)