Occupy Austin finds challenges, considers moving to park

Nick Hadjigeorge

After one month of Occupy Austin’s encampment of City Hall, protester and general assembly facilitator Joe Cooper said the group is confronting the challenges and realities of maintaining the momentum of the continuous occupation.

He and a group of other general assembly facilitators met Monday evening to discuss various proposals such as reducing the number and duration of daily general assembly meetings each week in order to boost attendance and re-energize the movement.

“A lot of people have been getting burned out and it’s becoming difficult to put together an efficient GA every single day,” Cooper said. “We would benefit from having less GAs and more teach-ins and movie nights.”

Since the beginning of Occupy Austin on Oct. 6, the group has maintained a permanent presence at City Hall, but Cooper said there are limitations with protesters staying overnight because of regulations City Hall and the Austin Police Department have placed on the encampment.

“It’s difficult for every occupier to stay overnight because we are only allowed to sleep on the steps, where the space is limited,” Cooper said.

Cooper said there have been proposals to move Occupy Austin to another location such as Republic Square Park, where he believes some of the group’s needs can be more effectively handled.

“Moving to a park won’t solve all of our problems,” Cooper said. “But if we relocate to a park we will be able to separate the actual Occupy process from unrelated matters such as drug use or disputes between people.”

Carl Lindemann, media organizer for Occupy Austin, said the occupation has already succeeded in raising political awareness among the millennial generation.

“The movement is still in its infancy, and it could morph in many different directions,” Lindemann said. “We know we have struck a gusher, but we don’t know how far deep it goes.”

He said it is time for the group to focus on effecting political change rather than focusing on disputes with the police or City Hall.

“We have to figure out where we are going to use our energy,” Lindemann said. “The movement is bigger than City Hall and the police, and we can’t worry about the little things.”

Occupy Austin protester Linda Wornkey said she recently became involved with the group, and it was her first night to camp on the steps of City Hall.

“I participated in my first protest ever last Saturday,” Wornkey said. “I am going to be staying here as long as I can because I think it’s a safe place, and I want to fight for justice.”

Terry Isaac, a representative from the Austin-based interfaith group Micah 6, said he was chosen by the group to represent the needs of the Occupy Austin homeless to City Hall.

“I talk to City Hall, and it’s a waste of time,” Isaac said. “There is a way to fix the problem, but they only want their way.”

Isaac said it is difficult to work with City Hall because of the lack of unity among the homeless and the city’s strict budget constraints.

“I’m here to help them out because their cause is just,” Isaac said. “But I think they aren’t taking the issue seriously enough, and they don’t know how to fight correctly to achieve their goal.”

Printed on Wednesday, November 16, 2011 as: Occupy Austin moves forward despite limitations.