Occupy Raleigh, NC (Part 4) – First Cold
I arrived 10/19 at 6:30pm just as the GA was starting. We had an update from the legal folks trying to get us back on the Capitol grounds. It sounded that the process had slowed but with the return to Raleigh of another attorney from the National Lawyers Guild allied with the movement, it seemed new angles of pressure had also presented themselves. As the GA continued to other business I stepped aside with both lawyers from the National Lawyers guild along with Jess, one of the people I had been arrested with.
We discussed varying issues surrounding our case. Turns out not all 19 had been placed under the order not to trespass onto the Capitol grounds. Four had been processed before the the police mistakenly believed the occupiers where attempting to return onto the grounds. So the following 15 had been issued the order, and both Jess and myself had been among those 15. We were also informed that getting the order lifted might be more complicated and take longer than originally thought. One of the lawyers apologized in case we felt we had been misled by him upon being released in regards to lifting the order. I told him not to worry about it. I at least did not feel misled. Things were going about as I expected.
As the GA ended I could feel the chill as the temperature had been steadily dropping. There had been some light rain during the GA but thankfully that was the extent of the rain. The wind picking up did give the growing chill a cutting edge.
After the GA some of us met in the newly formed Action Committee, but the wind made it hard to hear, so we moved to a bar nearby to discuss possible actions. We were mainly focused on things that could both bring positive attention to the occupation and also be a positive force in the community. Some interesting ideas emerged and I will relate them as they actually unfold as actions. There is a general belief that we can make it harder and harder for the state agencies to deny us back onto the Capitol grounds if we can show that we are a force of community service and education.
We returned to the occupation to find a few standing near the road with signs and the rest under blankets or sleeping bags in lawn chairs. It was cold and people were hunkering down for the long night. At one point a gentlemen approached and asked how things were going. He was from South Carolina and supported the movement. His job was with the state government and had something to do with tracking others access to health insurance. Someone asked him if he had health insurance. He laughed shaking his head responding, “Oh, no no no.” After a short conversation he bid us good luck and farewell. Within 5 minutes he returned carrying a sleeping bag. He said, “I might not be able to stand out here with you guys, but at least this can help keep someone warm.” I gratefully accepted the sleeping bag from him, and immediately found a taker in Jess who quickly used it to insulate herself further from the cold. We all thanked him and again he left.
Just after 1am a policemen drove up to the occupation and rolled down his window. As I was standing nearby were he stopped I approached him, “Evening officer.”
He had a friendly smile but began with, “You know you all cannot be sitting down.” My expression turned inquisitive and I responded, “That’s not the impression we had. This seems an odd time for things to change.”
“I just got word from the [high ranking officer] through dispatch that you all cannot sit down,” he replied.
“Well,” I began, “Another officer came by yesterday and gave us his card. He said that if we had any problems we should call him. The card is in one of our books but I wrote down his name and number in my little book. Hold on a second while I fish it out.”
The officer waited patiently while I reached under my rain coat and into my pants pocket, I brought out my little book and flipped to the correct page. “Here we go. His name is [officers name].” I told him. It was the officers turn to look inquisitive, “That’s a [even higher rank than the one from dispatch]. Let me call in a check that this went up the chain.”
“Of course,” I responded and then turned back toward the occupiers now looking at me in a mixture of concern and curiosity.
“Whats going on?” Jess asked.
“He says he got orders that we cannot sit down. I told him about [officers name that left us his card] and he is trying to confirm the orders.”
Another officer had driven up, parked behind the first patrol car, and got out eating from a soup cup.
“I could really go for a cup-o-soup,” Jess commented enviously. I smiled turning to the new officer, “Officer you are making us jealous with the hot soup.”
“Oh its not hot anymore,” he replied with a slight frown clearly wishing it had indeed still been hot. “Oh well then never mind,” I replied playfully.
“As you were,” the first cop said. As I turned toward him I saw he had exited his vehicle as he was going to speak with the cop that had been stationed there the whole time (now in an unmarked police car) my guess to inform him that we could indeed remain seated.
As he passed me I shook his hand, “Thank you for being willing to check on that officer. I am not looking to cause you any trouble.” He replied something like, “No problem.” or “I know.”
From then until I left I pretty much had a perma-grin. I took the opportunity to raise the debate about whether or not we should comply with the Raleigh PD citing this sort of thing as an example of how it can help us. I just want more people thinking about it since the decision to do so or not in any given moment may not leave much time for thought. I left the number to our police ally with a couple people who planned to stay the night just in case any new problems arose and then left around 1:30am.
Actually, I think the perma-grin lasted until I fell asleep. Maybe even beyond that.