What will happen to Iowa City's Occupiers?


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"It's a doozy."

It's been two weeks since Groundhog Day and a quick glance at the listed predictions of all the weather-projecting rodents seems to offer a near consensus that spring will arrive early. Having experienced one of the mildest Iowa winters I can recall, I have to admit I wasn't too worried about what Punxsutawney Phil or any of his buck-toothed brethren had to say on the matter. Instead, I've been wondering what Tom Markus and our City Council might say in regard to whether those of us living in the College Hill neighborhood can expect early use of College Green park this spring or whether we would have to wait through six (or more) weeks of Occupation. 

Living as close to College Green as I do, I have been quite interested in the Occupation from the start. I was at the general assembly the night before they moved in, where there was much discussion about what to do when (not if) the police forcibly removed the protesters. I was there the next day, as were many others, when the Occupation began in a party-like atmosphere. I was there, if only in passing, every day after that, being greeted by Occupiers, as I walked through the park to work, as I had before the occupation and will likely do after.

I was happy to cede apolitical use of the park in the fall so that it may serve as the origin and instrument of political statement. I was more than happy to have the Occupation in the park in the late fall, and while I would've liked to take advantage of the many unseasonably warm days we had through the end of 2011, I supported the protest and was glad to see the park unempty on the days that were more typically dreary.

I remarked that Mother Nature must have been on their side as we enjoyed the mildest winter I can recall. I started to wonder, however, what was happening, as I noticed the faces that were so recognizable in those first fall months disappear, and then again as their replacements seemed to disappear as well. I wondered why there seemed to be so many tents in the park, but so few people, and then later, none at all.

A protest that seemed rightfully content to offer not answers but questions was now leaving me with many.

Where is everyone?

What will happen next?

When the clock turns past midnight and March begins, will the protesters have moved out or will they demand to be removed, as always seemed to be their intention? What was accomplished and what is left to be done? When will the other 99 percent of people in Iowa City be able to use the park again?

These are the questions of my winter. 

In the spring, I imagine I will be asking myself others, such as:

Would a morning sitting under a tree be as nice if the spot had not been sporting a portable toilet for the past few months? 

Would an afternoon in the gazebo seem quite as lovely had it not been decorated with the assorted flotsam and jetsam that prevented its use by anyone else?

Would it feel as nice to lay on the lawn had the presence of uninhabited tents for most of the winter not killed the grass and necessitated reseeding? Just as surviving a winter makes one better appreciate spring, would we now make better use of a park previously occupied?

All will be revealed, I expect. Strike up the music, the band has begun.

Josh Eklow is a resident of Iowa City. He graduated from the University of Iowa in 2011.

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