How much longer can the local 99-percenters stand their ground?

Occupy Kansas City struggles for survival in Penn Valley Park 

How much longer can the local 99-percenters stand their ground?

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Wesley follows the stench of hot, steaming manure to three guys shoveling mulch from the back of a truck as they manicure the Plaza's plant life. Their English is broken, but they appear supportive. Wesley uses his limited Spanish to encourage the men to bring their families to the rally.

Not everyone is open to Wesley's message. He's rebuffed by road workers in the middle of traffic. Shoppers walking to Armani Exchange and N Valentino say terse No thank yous.

Steve wanders alleys looking for workers on smoking breaks. He tries to strike up a conversation with a man, who isn't interested.

"I'm a Republican," the man says and walks away.

"It's not political!" a frustrated Steve calls after the man. His words fail to register.

After a couple of hours of canvassing, the three head back to the camp.

Around 1 p.m., two police cars pull into the parking lot near the encampment. Three officers get out and gaze at the tents and occupiers. Tyler, a 29-year-old protester who says he came to the site on September 30, the first morning of the Occupy KC movement, says the police have been a daily presence.

The area gets quiet. People clump together, looking at the three officers in the distance as if they're conquistadors coming ashore. The police walk the hundred feet or so to the congregation. Tyler videotapes them with a small camcorder.

The widespread thought throughout the site is that Mayor Sly James has told police to not arrest occupiers for illegally camping on public land. Sgt. Greg Williams (a few protesters call him "Officer Quentin Tarantino," for his slight resemblance to the filmmaker) brings a simple message today: That's not true.

"There hasn't been a reprieve from the mayor's office. It's still against city code; at this time, we're not enforcing it," says Williams, who is on a first-name basis with many of the occupiers.

Williams says multiple times that the protesters need a camping permit. Once they get the permit, he says, they won't be in violation of city code. "Get that permit," he tells them.

"You could be cited. We're not here to enforce this now," he says. "You guys are peaceful — we appreciate that. We appreciate the open communication. But at some point, we might have to take enforcement."

The officers walk back to their cars. Tyler is unmoved.

"They are not our friends," he says. "There is no trust given to the police. We're just glad we're not getting our asses beat by them. So we're going to curb stirring the bee's nest as long as possible."

Asked why the protesters don't chip in to pay for the permit, Tyler says it isn't going to happen.

"That's not what the occupation is about," he says. "It's not about conforming to every rule and taxation and fee and law and red-tape bureaucracy they've come up with. I mean, why can't we, as citizens, come to our park and set up our tents and work together as our community?"

In the evening, it becomes clear that Occupy Kansas City is a story of a group split into two shifts. At the occupation site, the parking lot fills with station wagons, Priuses and sedans. The general assembly meeting brings a more professional, scrubbed-behind-the-ears version of the Occupy movement. Many of the hard-core inhabitants have scattered, yielding the land to occupiers in porkpie hats, khakis, messenger bags, polished-­leather boots and sleek cloaks. The rhetoric isn't necessarily fierier, but it is more organized.

A generator powers a light, microphone and amplifier under a statue dedicated to veterans of the Spanish-American War. Organizers announce encampment news —the kitchen needs to be moved because the ground underneath it is getting muddy — and proposals are brought up for discussion. Assembly members use hand signals to signify support or disapproval of ideas.

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