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Occupy Spokane weighs future

Tue., Nov. 1, 2011

At the intersection of Riverside Avenue and Monroe Street, Randolph Robinson pickets for Occupy Spokane on Monday. (Colin Mulvany)
At the intersection of Riverside Avenue and Monroe Street, Randolph Robinson pickets for Occupy Spokane on Monday. (Colin Mulvany)

Round-the-clock protest has typified movement

Sometimes there are only one or two people carrying signs and waving at cars passing by the little triangle of city property on a corner of Riverside Avenue and Monroe Street.

But the month-old Occupy Spokane movement persists and its members insist not even inclement weather will make them give up their ground.

“We may have to shovel it,” said Steve Anderson, a 25-year-old facilitator for the leaderless movement inspired by the 6-week-old Occupy Wall Street demonstration in lower Manhattan against greed and economic injustice.

“By no means is winter going to freeze us out of this movement,” Anderson said.

The Spokane demonstration may continue, but whether it will remain an around-the-clock effort could be determined at 6 p.m. Wednesday, when participants gather in a general assembly at the Community Building, 35 W. Main Ave., to determine where the movement goes from here, said the Rev. Jim CastroLang, 55, pastor of the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Colville.

“I hope we will still occupy this space, but we may have to be more organized,” said CastroLang, who demonstrated Monday afternoon at the triangle.

Unlike other Occupy Wall Street spinoffs across the nation, Spokane’s has been remarkably free of confrontation with law enforcement.

“The police have been respectful,” said Terry Hill, 57, who spent Monday morning demonstrating.

Not since Spokane police enforced the city’s anti-camping ordinance on Sept. 30, when tents were taken down, has there been any overt police presence at the demonstration.

Though city officials had issues with a nearby makeshift kitchen that kept participants supplied with coffee and sandwiches, Anderson said it was Occupy Spokane that decided to close it.

Hill said the kitchen was closed “for security reasons” after an Occupy Spokane participant was threatened with violence by a nonparticipant.

Meanwhile, Saturday marches by Occupy Spokane participants and their supporters continue to attract far more people than can be found during the week on the triangle. Crowd estimates for the marches vary from a couple hundred people to 1,000.

A recent United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll found solid support for the Occupy Wall Street protests. Among adults, 59 percent either completely agree or mostly agree with the demonstrators, while 31 percent mostly disagree or completely disagree.

Hill, a retired Spokane Transit Authority worker, rebuffed what he called media attempts to portray demonstrators as radicals or ne’er-do-wells.

Like others of his generation, Hill said, he has had a good career and fears the next generation will not have the same opportunity.

“I’m worried about what’s going to happen when I’m not here,” he said. “The good manufacturing, living-wage jobs – where are they now?”

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