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Occupy Iowa City: Protesters resume constructing shelter

BY MATT STARNS | OCTOBER 25, 2011 7:20 AM

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Occupy Iowa City protesters are continuing to construct a 120-square-foot structure at College Green Park after meeting with city officials Monday.

Initial construction of the shelter was halted Oct. 21, when Mike Moran, the director of Iowa City Parks and Recreation, sent a memo to members of the Occupy movement.

He ordered construction "must cease immediately" until protesters submit a permit application for the use of College Green Park. Moran said in the memo he would consider the appropriateness of a temporary structure if the protesters submitted the application.

"We want to give it a fair shake," Moran told The Daily Iowan Monday. "We'll react based on what they say their intentions are."

Members of the group met Monday morning with city officials and formally applied for a permit to occupy the park, a decision that was ratified in the group's general assembly with little resistance — despite initial reservations previously expressed to The Daily Iowan by some protesters.

"They're being cooperative with us; we should be cooperative with them," said Stephany Hoffelt, an Occupy protester who was present at the assembly. "They're not really the enemy."

After applying for the permit, several protesters met with city officials and outlined specifications for the temporary structure. The demonstrators are now building the structure to suit the parameters.

The initial structure, a skeleton made of 2-by-4-inch studs, closely resembled the frame of a house. The problem with the structure, according to protesters, was its size. At 16-by-16 feet, the frame was outside the limit outlined in temporary-structure guidelines — which limit the size of the building to 120 square feet.

But Steve Hoffelt, an Occupy protester and member of the outreach committee, said the new structure measures 10-by-12 feet.

Protesters said there are minimal plans for the structure beyond four walls and a roof.

"That's as substantial as [it's] going to get," said Steve Hoffelt. "We're looking at stapling tarps to the outside and then using Tyvek on the inside to create a pocket of air to insulate it."

He also noted that each wall is self-contained and detachable from the others, making the frame moveable. He said this will allow the group to include the structure in their biweekly rotation of tents, which keeps the grass at College Green healthy.

"[Moran's] big concern was the stewardship of the park and to make sure that anything we do to keep people warm and safe during the winter isn't destructive," he said.

The structure is important for the group's public outreach as occupiers transition into colder weather, Stephany Hoffelt said. She said they hope the insulated shelter will be more inviting for passersby to stop and learn more about the demonstration in winter months.

"It's not just about sleeping warm," she said. "It's about being here all day. Even just to have people come up and talk to us — people are going to stay a lot longer if they're not shivering."


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