I was reinvigorated today.
The Occupy Salt Lake City movement is truly remarkable. Occupations were first established in Pioneer Park and nearby private land, but fell to police pressure and issues with drug use, vagrancy and violence, as have other Occupations throughout the nation.
Still, dedicated organizers were able to Occupy the Federal Reserve in Downtown SLC. When police threatened to shut down that camp as well, even though the previous problems were not longer an issue, the Occupiers were able to work with them and secure a new location.
Occupy SLC now has a permitted Occupation at Gallivan Plaza, right between the Wells Fargo and Chase corporate offices, across the street from Goldman Sachs, and around the corner from U.S. Bank, Merrill Lynch and the Federal Reserve.
The movement now has about a dozen tents for personal use, supplies and other specific functions, as well as a main dome tent that serves as a meeting place, library and welcome area. One of the keys to success, they said, is that they have been actively working with police, not against them.
One organizer said that once they were able to relate to the officers on a personal level, and see their common goals, things became much easier. The camp does have a strict non-violence code and zero tolerance for drugs and alcohol.
Problems that have plagued many Occupations, including previous Occupy SLC sites, were circumvented in this case by a sort of vetting process. Only after Occupiers have contributed to the camp for a few days and participated in discussions can they reside there.
Organizers say this approach has helped prevent many of the issues of drug use and violence that plauged other camps. It is a movement, not a squat they said. Occupiers are able to see the value the camp offers and that it is a privilege to stay there.
The camp is a peaceful place for discussion and planning. Occupiers hold several informal meetings throughout the day and formal GA’s several times a week.
They are currently working mostly on local issues of community building, foreclosure support, prison advocacy (with support from American Legislative Exchange Council), financial system reform and helping troubled local businesses.
Occupy SLC’s main focus, however, is education. They are trying to educate the public, and themselves, on the major issues facing modern America. They said only by spreading awareness and information about what is going on can real positive change be achieved.
“Knowledge is power, and knowledge should be free,” one Occupier said.
– Serious Note
* I was initially planning to skip Salt Lake on my tour. Only now do I realize what a travesty that would have been. It was amazing to see the depth of discussion and dedication these Occupiers had to their cause. Their movement is not just a political tool, but a reexamination of cultural consciousness. They are trying to change the way Americans have come to relate to one another by engaging the public in discussion about important issues of direct significance to their lives.
Occupy Knowledge. Occupy your Mind. Long live the Occupation.