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Thursday, November 17,2011

'We're still here'

Occupy Lansing members say Occupy New York’s eviction has no effect on them

by Nyssa Rabinowitz
Thursday, Nov. 17 — Occupy Lansing members are planning to continue their protest in Reutter Park despite the recent evictions of other Occupy movements, a movement participant says.
“I’m not concerned about it,” Aaron Mayfield, 29, said. He has been living in the park since Oct. 12. “The difference between this and Oakland and New York is the fact that we actually have the support of our police … and the mayor supports us as well.”
Occupiers in Oakland and more recently New York have been violently removed by police at the request of city officials, and other cities are following in their footsteps. Just after midnight today, Dallas mounted police with riot gear arrested more than a dozen occupiers from their six-week-old campsite near City Hall, Reuters reports. According to the article, there was no violence. City officials notified protesters that they “breached” their agreement to use the park when they failed to collect and remove trash as well as when some members began carrying weapons and cooking on the site, the article states. City officials said 18 were arrested while Occupy Dallas officials put the number at 17.
Mayfield said Wednesday he wasn’t worried about getting evicted as long as the Lansing group cleans the park and keeps everyone safe. Where other Occupy groups have been met with hostility from city officials, Mayfield said Mayor Virg Bernero gave the Lansing group portable toilets and trashcans to help keep the park clean. The group is also in “constant communication” with the police department in case anything goes wrong, he said.
“(Bernero) loves us,” he said. “Whether it’s to advance his own career or not, I don’t really care. The fact of the matter is that he supports us so I’ll take it.”
Mayfield said between 20 and 25 occupiers live in Reutter Park. Others come to the camp during the weekend or from other Occupy movements, but don’t stay for very long. The group hasn’t lost core members yet, but Mayfield said the impending cold weather might start shrinking their numbers as people stop protesting and return indoors.
“The weather is going to be the true deciding factor for the Occupation movement,” he said. “If we can sustain throughout the winter, then we’ll be good.”
Mayfield said the group’s presence in the park has made the area safer and he’s noticed more people walking through the area in the early-morning hours. The group doesn’t patrol the park, he said, but having so many people around deters anything from happening.
“You really can’t do much because if you hear one person scream you have a whole tent city that’s going to wake up,” Mayfield said.
Fellow occupier Peyton Twombley, 17, said he helped a man who fell and hurt his ankle while walking in the park a few days ago. After wrapping his ankle, the group called emergency services. Paramedics discovered that the man’s blood sugar was dangerously low and took him to the hospital for treatment, Twombley said.
“If he had stayed in the park and somebody wouldn’t have been here to figure it out and get EMTs called, he could have ended up dead in the park,” Twombley said. He’s lived in the camp since Oct. 15.
Regardless of what happens to other movements, Mayfield and Twombley both said they intend to stay at the camp through the winter. The only exception might be if something major happens at a local movement such as Detroit, Flint or Ann Arbor.
“It’s not really going to affect us that much because we’re still here,” Mayfield said of the New York eviction. “People think that if New York falls, the whole movement is done. No. If New York falls, other movements will send people to New York.”
Both Mayfield and Twombley spoke on behalf of themselves rather than the group since no media spokesman was appointed by the group’s general assembly Tuesday night.
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