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Lack of protesters could hinder Occupy's new permit

BY JENNY EARL | JANUARY 20, 2012 7:20 AM

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A note on the main bulletin board for Occupy Iowa City says "We are a nation left out in the cold."

But many Occupy Iowa City protesters are not out in the cold. Instead, they've migrated to their heated homes.

 

With a dozen empty tents left behind, the number of Occupy Iowa City demonstrators has dipped since mid-December, losing occupiers and gaining the homeless.

Since October, the number of protesters camping at College Green Park has slumped from 70 to around 10.

Franklin Lewis Kebschull, an Iowa City resident and advertising executive for Occupy Iowa City, said he has been on the streets ever since his release from prison about two years ago. He has resided at College Green Park with Occupy Iowa City since October, with only a sleeping bag and a tent to keep him warm, saying he plans to endure the cold months ahead.

"I haven't gotten cold yet — compared to last year, this is nothing," he said.

Many other Occupiers, though, aren't putting up with the low temperatures.

"I set [my] tent up, then it got cold and I never made it back," said Occupy Iowa City member Meghan Carter.

Kebschull expressed concern with the lack of presence in the park, saying people that could help the movement are no longer around.

"The people who could help us aren't here," he said. "People come and go, but they don't always stay here; they go to their house — their warm little house."

Carter said the Occupiers are still maintaining a devoted presence outside the park, with general assembly meetings of 20 to 60 people every Tuesday and Sunday. Those meetings are held indoors.

"I feel that we've already passed a large hurdle as a group of people," she said. "When [the Occupiers] first started dwindling down, everyone was sad, and no one knew what was going to happen, but we rose to the occasion and we evolved," Carter said.

According to a Des Moines Register article, Occupy Iowa protesters in Des Moines are being evicted from their park. But Occupy Iowa City members still claim to maintain a good relationship with the police and local government.

"The police here are actually really nice. They've never bothered us or nothing," Kebschull said. "I know the police, they know me personally, and they think it's nice that I'm actually doing something like this."

Iowa City police Sgt. Denise Brotherton said the police have not responded to any more problems in the park than they would without the Occupiers.

However, Carter expressed concerns about the homeless citizens and the group's overall lack of presence in the park being misinterpreted by authorities.

"We take the heat for [the homeless], so really, even though they're there, it becomes our responsibility to make sure what happens there is kosher," Carter said.

Iowa City Director of Parks and Recreation Mark Moran said he will discuss renewing the permit — which currently expires Feb. 28 — at the end of the month. Key factors in the renewal will focus on how Occupy Iowa City protesters followed the permit requirements during their four months.

"Half of the camp is Occupy folks and the other half is homeless, so it has developed into a split camp, unfortunately," Moran said.


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