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By Evan Harmon

KCPD warns Occupy KC to immediately take down all structures

Police officers from the Kansas City Police Department showed up at the Occupy KC camp in Penn Valley Park to inform the Occupiers that all structures, including tents, will no longer be tolerated. Read on…

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Entries in occupation (6)

Tuesday
Mar272012

KCPD warns Occupy KC to immediately take down all structures

By Evan Harmon

Police officers from the Kansas City Police Department showed up at the Occupy KC camp in Penn Valley Park to inform the Occupiers that all structures, including tents, will no longer be tolerated. The cordial cops showed up at the park early Tuesday evening and politely warned members of Occupy KC that if they do not immediately remove all structures from the park they could be confiscated and trashed, including their personal belongings.

Facebook, Twitter, and email lists lit up soon after the police officers’ warning, eliciting support, confusion, and clarifying reports of the incident. “It seems to some of us that tonight is the night. 5 local officers showed, while 3 other cars and an suv stood on, the 5 officers left camp without giving detail as to when,” Occupier Shaun Lee reported on Facebook.

Officer Greg Williams, who led a ten minute discussion with the park’s Occupiers, clarified that structures such as tents are against city code, but sleeping bags are acceptable. “You have a right to be here. The tents do not. … Enjoy the park. It’s open 24/7,” Williams said.

Occupy KC has received similar warnings in the past, and confusion remains when, if, and how this latest warning will be enforced. When asked for a specific timetable, Williams said, “It can be enforced at any time. It could be five minutes.”

As of now, the structures that Occupy KC has put up at Penn Valley Park are considered abandoned property, according to Williams.

When asked what would happen if someone were to refuse to take down their structure, Officer Williams said they would be subject to arrest.

Occupy KC is currently deliberating how to respond to this turn of events.

Livestream video of the event

Friday
Jan062012

Spotlight an Occupier: Monroe Perez

By Tyler Crane

Monroe Perez is a loving father of two boys, a full time college student at Penn Valley with a double-major in engineering and alternative energy, as well as being a dedicated Occupier camping five nights a week. Monroe spent many years on the road traveling with a nomadic ministry. They traveled around to cities devastated by natural disasters, and upon arrival would assist in the clean-up and rebuilding of homes. Most notable was his time spent in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. There he helped rebuild homes in the Lower 9th Ward; one of the cities poorest and hardest hit neighborhoods, and one neglected by the Government and FEMA. Witnessing firsthand the carelessness of the government has led to a politically active life and involvement in the Occupy Movement.

Monroe Perez protesting at Occupy the Bridge on November 17th, 2011. Photograph by Beka Noble

Monroe joined the Occupation in Kansas City during the second week and he quickly took on the role of organizing and operating the comfort work group, a task well-suited to Monroe, as he is deeply concerned about the comfort and well-being of others.

The comfort work group is tasked with collecting and organizing donations such as clothing, blankets, and camping gear. Monroe has done amazing work at Occupy KC. He has clothed and sheltered many homeless people in Kansas City, many of whom have since joined the Occupation and have now become active in the Movement. These are the kinds of selfless acts that embody the essence of the Movement because they directly improve the quality of people’s lives, which is something that Monroe does daily.

One of my earliest memories of Monroe is of him walking around the occupation site offering back alignments and shiatsu massages. His intent was to help people relax, promote health, and most importantly to make people feel good. I knew then that he was an excellent addition to the growing Occupy family. For Thanksgiving, he organized the community to come together to provide dinner for all the Occupiers. He stated, “This camp has become people’s home, a place they can feel safe and included. I felt it was important to have a holiday dinner to build on that feeling of inclusiveness and family. I wanted to share that feeling of love.” He organized enough food to feed 40-50 people. The community showed their support by donating food which included three turkeys, a glazed ham, Tofurky for the vegetarians, side dishes, pumpkin pies, and dinner rolls. He organized all this out of the love from his heart and for the love of the people.

Monroe Perez gives a heartfelt speech in front of Bank of America at Occupy KC’s Death of the Social Safety Net Funeral March on December 30th, 2011. Photograph by Christian Soulliere

From his perspective, the Occupy Movement is a chance for middle America, for the oppressed people to come together to restore their voice in the American political system. It’s a chance to rebuild our communities and give back to the people who for too long have been neglected by a corrupt and greedy government. He envisions Occupy KC as a model for other Occupations to follow, a model of community building and compassion. Monroe stated:

“Without healthy, safe communities we fail. We have been failing, and its because of the systematic destruction of what our communities represent. This is why the Occupy Movement is so important. We are restoring the people’s voice. We are bringing awareness to so many issues and showing people how to get involved.”

I asked Monroe how long he planned on occupying. He replied:

“As long as it takes to create real positive change in our political system and until there is economic justice. It’s not fair for my family and myself to have to pay taxes while companies like GE do not pay anything, even after making billions in profits. It does not make any sense. I will occupy forever if it helps create a better world.”

He went on to say that everyone has something to offer to the movement:

“We all have unique skillsets and talents that often go unused in the current system. At Occupy, your talents as an artist, poet, carpenter, teacher, yoga instructor, preacher, etc…, these talents are not only welcome, but necessary to cultivate and create a better world for all. We need to learn how to work with one another’s skills. To not have one person do all the work, but to spread the load evenly, and the passion evenly so that everyone can be able to actually change something.”

Monroe encourages everyone to get involved and share in the process of creating a new and better way of co-existing. He is an inspiration and a motivator, a civic-minded activist committed to improving the lives of everyone around him.

It is for these reasons that Monroe was selected to be spotlighted. Your hard work and love for the Occupation has been a critical element of the Movement’s success in Kansas City.

Thank you for being a part of the Occupy family.

Tuesday
Nov292011

Occupy KC Prepares for Winter

 

Protesters face Valley Forge-like test, some intend to go the distance.

By Jeff Johnson

In Cairo, protesters are shot and killed. At UC Davis and in Denver, they are pepper sprayed and batoned. Here in Kansas City? The park sprinklers came on during one of Occupy KC’s events and dampened the grounds. Not shocking video material. No outraged citizenry, no city officials forced to step down, and a bunch of local Occupiers left wondering whether they are being taken seriously.

As it stands, Occupy KC’s imminent challenge is not The Man (as 60’s-era protesters referred to their oppressors), but Old Man Winter, who every Midwesterner knows can be unrelentingly oppressive. Observers and insiders wonder if it is realistic to expect Occupiers to sleep on frozen ground for the next few months, and are concerned that the local Movement might fizzle without a continuous outdoor presence.

Chad Moore is among those that plan to stay in Penn Valley Park through the winter.

So far, Occupy KC has gotten away with using tents at Penn Valley Park, their original and main protest site near the Federal Reserve Bank. However, even with tents and heaters, it is a big question mark whether Occupy KC can survive the entire winter outside. Adding uncertainty, local law enforcement has repeatedly warned Occupiers that they may at any time enforce the city parks’ no-tent rule.

As with most things Occupy, opinions are divided and plans vary. Some say it would be a waste of resources to support an outdoor camp through the winter months. Others are committed to the symbolic importance of the park presence.

Chad Moore, 26, stays at the site two or three nights per week.


“A bunch of us have decided that if we can stay out here through the winter, that will make an even stronger statement,” said Moore.

Another Occupier said the site serves as a unifying, physical hub for an Occupation that has seen its share of division.

Brian Gandreau intends to stay through the winter. He says efforts are in the works to obtain large military tents with room for communal sleeping, possibly to be set on wood pallets. As an indoor refuge on the most bitter of cold nights, Gandreau says they have leads on charitable organizations nearby.

For some of those dependent on the food, supplies and community of the camp, the political message of the encampment is not the priority, but instead, simply day-to-day existence. For these individuals, without an Occupy camp, there may be nothing remaining that identifies them with the Movement.

Linda Miller, who helps coordinate the receipt and distribution of supplies on site, says so far they have had a good supply of donated blankets and gloves, but sleeping bags and tents continue to be a need. Storms have already taken their toll. “We lost several tents, and the kitchen tent is about to go,” said Miller.

Tuesday
Nov292011

For Occupy KC's camp cook, being unemployed does not mean being idle

By Jeff Johnson

Talk to people around the Occupy KC site and they will tell you that nobody works harder than Linda Miller. “I guess that’s why I’m so damn tired and cranky all the time,” says Miller. Using donations from supporters of the Movement, and with help from other Occupiers, Miller, 38, cooks for and feeds between 30 and 50 people on site each day.

Occupy KC’s camp cook Linda Miller

“I’m the camp cook, but some people call me the kitchen Nazi.” Apparently, Miller runs a tight ship. She used to run the graveyard shift at the diner Nichols Lunch, until it closed in 2006.

Of late, Miller has been unable to find work. “I would take any job I could get, but preferably inside.” Miller has worked elsewhere since Nichols, but the loss of her position there came during a difficult decade for Miller; her mother, father, grandmother and husband all passed away.

Miller joined Occupy KC having no idea what it was about. “I’ve never been political. In my section [while she was waiting tables]I didn’t allow talk of sports, politics or religion.” She saw the October 9th march down Broadway and just joined in, even though she had a cast on her leg up to her thigh. “It was slow going,” said Miller.

At the rally after the march, she listened to an anti-nuclear weapons speech, and that night she grabbed some blankets and tarps and settled in for the night. Since then, she has been part of the Occupy KC community. “It was pretty mindboggling being down here the first few days,” says Miller. “There were a lot of people talking. It just blurred into one big conversation.” She said it was a week before she understood why people were there.

Linda Miller beside her tent at Penn Valley Park.

When asked about her concerns with the system, Miller replies, “Jobs would be nice.”

Miller says she was “raised dirt poor,” started working at age 13, and knew a better standard of living for a time when she managed apartment buildings with her mother. Now she contributes to Occupy KC by serving on the Town Planning and Peace Keeping workgoups.

Miller says she may have an opportunity to take a traveling job in the spring. In the meantime, at Occupy KC she experiences a welcome sense of community. Last week, after serving Thanksgiving dinner at camp, she joined Occupiers in a “mic check” of area Walmarts for Black Thursday, where she said they attempted to spread the message that the “meaning of Christmas is not in greed, or money, or power. It’s about loving one another. You don’t have to buy things to share that.” She said the cashiers were receptive. The shoppers, not so much.

Tuesday
Nov292011

The consensus process is indispensable to genuine self-governance.

 

By Amy Bowen

If you have ever stood in a cold rain for three hours, agonizing over a single proposal alongside fifty of your fellow Occupiers, you will understand why some people are less than enthusiastic about using the consensus process. However, the critical benefits that the process imparts to democracy, and the inherent meaning it provides to its citizen participants, makes enduring a bit of discomfort and tedium not just worthwhile, but necessary.

The Occupy movement is based on a leaderless consensus model. Decisions are made horizontally in order to replace the need for leaders, who by definition make egalitarian organization impossible. We have been falsely represented by our elected officials; what we want now is the ability to govern ourselves with equality. Our commitment to true, participatory, egalitarian self-governance is evident by the very nature of our occupation.

It is no coincidence that the most vocal critics of the consensus process tend to be, well, vocal. In their everyday lives, they tend to direct rather than be directed, and to interrupt rather than be interrupted. Those accustomed to dominating others, whether deliberately or not, may struggle to patiently engage in healthy, consensus decision-making, which aims to achieve equal participation and the consent, if not the agreement, of all.

With simple majority rule, the minority simply loses. We should reject this oppression of the minority, in favor of a living, evolving consensus, a transformational process which can accomplish things unattainable independently. This is synergy in its purest form.

It is important to note that the process does not mandate unanimous approval. It seems that this hodgepodge mix of fiercely independent Occupiers almost never agrees unanimously on anything, at first.

Rather, when a proposal sparks disagreement, the process aims to ensure that every unique dissenting voice is heard. Each dissenter is allotted a certain length of time to express the reasons why they do not fully support the proposal. The group then considers the reasons for dissent, reevaluates the proposal, and perhaps alters it in light of these new ideas. This may take a little longer than dictatorial decision-making, but it ensures cohesiveness, which is crucial to our success as a movement.

Any decision-making method is only valuable to the extent that it assists us in accomplishing our goals. Therefore, if at any time the process becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the occupiers to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new form of self-governance. Indeed, if we didn’t believe that, we wouldn’t be here.

For those who have never been able to shout loudly enough to be heard, the General Assembly stands in radiant contrast to the unfeeling power of majority rule. And contrary to Mr. Johnson’s belief, the danger is not to be found in the process itself, but in its abandonment.

Recommended reading: Horizontalidad