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A Night Spent at Occupy Buffalo

Ever since Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I have been on another tour of Occupy protest sites in the country. Right now I am at Occupy Buffalo. I spent the night here last night and for the first time I actually occupied and slept in a tent. The experience gave me the opportunity to really understand what it is like for occupiers to operate an encampment in the cold winter.

Sam, who has been an Occupy Supply liaison, met me at the bus station. She brought me down to the occupation in Niagara Square. She immediately began to show great hospitality and appreciation for the contribution Occupy Supply has made to Occupy Buffalo. She and another occupier, who I believe is named Jamie, also began to sternly explain how the encampment has a zero tolerance for drugs, alcohol and homeless people, who are in the camp and unwilling to protest.

The occupation set me up with a newer tent. I joked but immediately was aware that this is the type of development in a camp that can start conflict. Some occupier could say, “Why does he get the new tent? He isn’t even an occupier.” But immediately when Sam began to introduce me and I began to say, “Hello!” to people, it became clear occupiers here had a lot of respect for what Firedoglake has done for them through Occupy Supply.

I asked for some Occupy Supply gear that I could use while I was in the camp, because I did not have gear to stay outside and sleep in an encampment. Someone quickly pointed out how odd it was that the guy who is technically with Occupy Supply didn’t have his own gear.

Sam showed me around the protest site and took me inside the comfort tent, where they keep the clothing and supplies for sleeping. She told me that the clothing could be removed and donated to a Salvation Army. They might not have it here anymore because people become too reliant on clothing from the camp and this camp isn’t a shelter. It is a 24/7 base for protest.

I was taken inside a tepee that the occupiers have on site. It is for meditation and anyone who wants to use it for prayer, etc.

The occupation also has a geodesic dome that was donated. Occupiers were watching movies that were being projected on to the inside of the dome.

For most of the evening, I was in the food tent. I listened as occupiers talked to me about some of the conflicts they have had in the camp (of which I will detail more later). I did two interviews. Each person was very interested in how Occupy Supply was started. I explained that we set it up to give all Americans a very real way to help the Occupy movement if they could not get down to an encampment to protest.

I stayed up until just after midnight. I witnessed two situations where occupiers had to put their foot down and tell people they could not be here. [read more]One involved a woman who had drawn blood on the site when she beat up her boyfriend. She tried to come get food and was asked directly to leave. The other incident involved a tall middle-aged gentleman with ponytail who came in quietly to get some food. He didn’t look like someone who had been organizing with the movement. He was asked to leave and not come back. But, he had no place to stay. The man returned and managed to convince a few occupiers to give him a sleeping bag.

When the morning came, Sam found him sleeping in the camp. He was not someone who had been protesting with Occupy Buffalo, though he claimed to be part of the “struggle.” He tried to steal a sleeping bag that is specially made for subzero temperatures. An occupier that is also homeless but has become an active participant in Buffalo, someone who is a pretty good-sized individual, confronted this man, who was told to get out of the camp. And they were able to get the sleeping bag from him before he could take off with it.

I slept pretty well overnight. Occupy Buffalo had a heater for my tent. I had two blankets along with a sleeping bag. So, for people who believe everyone here would have to be freezing, that is not the case, especially since occupiers here have Occupy Supply gear.

If there is anything I take away from being here overnight, it is that you really come to understand how you are responsible for yourself and others and must be vigilant and keep an eye out for anyone who might come into the camp and stir up trouble. Each occupier has to be diligent and mature. They have to potentially look someone in the eye and tell them they cannot be here and be willing to stay on them until they do leave the camp.

This is a place for challenging poverty and building a movement that will challenge the political and social forces that lead people to become impoverished. There is only so much an Occupy site can do for the bottom 1%, who come here but do not want to protest.

When you are in a tent, you can feel a sense of pride because you are part of the vanguard of a movement that truly has the potential to impact society and perhaps win systemic changes that are necessary to the future of all people (e.g. abolishing corporate personhood or getting money out of politics). You can also hear cars whizzing by in the night, the wind and everything in the city space around you that makes noise. You can wonder if you will still be here tomorrow too. Will something happen to your tent while you are sleeping in the night?

Today, winds are expected to gust up to 40 mph. There was rain this morning. It could get colder and snow. But don’t talk about the weather with Occupy Buffalo. The weather is probably their last concern. They are here to challenge corporate greed, corporate personhood, the influence of money in politics, foreclosures and improper home evictions, those on Wall Street that deserve to be investigated, prosecuted and sent to jail for their role in the 2008 economic collapse, etc. They are here to make it through winter to spring and collectively have the confidence and demeanor to achieve this goal.

CommunityThe Dissenter

A Night Spent at Occupy Buffalo

Occupy Buffalo Night Owls

Ever since Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I have been on another tour of Occupy protest sites in the country.  Right now I am at Occupy Buffalo. I spent the night here last night and for the first time I actually occupied and slept in a tent. The experience gave me the opportunity to really understand what it is like for occupiers to operate an encampment in the cold winter.

Sam, who has been an Occupy Supply liaison, met me at the bus station. She brought me down to the occupation in Niagara Square. She immediately began to show great hospitality and appreciation for the contribution Occupy Supply has made to Occupy Buffalo. She and another occupier, who I believe is named Jamie, also began to sternly explain how the encampment has a zero tolerance for drugs, alcohol and homeless people, who are in the camp and unwilling to protest.

The occupation set me up with a newer tent. I joked but immediately was aware that this is the type of development in a camp that can start conflict. Some occupier could say, “Why does he get the new tent? He isn’t even an occupier.” But immediately when Sam began to introduce me and I began to say, “Hello!” to people, it became clear occupiers here had a lot of respect for what Firedoglake has done for them through Occupy Supply.

I asked for some Occupy Supply gear that I could use while I was in the camp, because I did not have gear to stay outside and sleep in an encampment. Someone quickly pointed out how odd it was that the guy who is technically with Occupy Supply didn’t have his own gear.

Sam showed me around the protest site and took me inside the comfort tent, where they keep the clothing and supplies for sleeping. She told me that the clothing could be removed and donated to a Salvation Army. They might not have it here anymore because people become too reliant on clothing from the camp and this camp isn’t a shelter. It is a 24/7 base for protest.

I was taken inside a tepee that the occupiers have on site. It is for meditation and anyone who wants to use it for prayer, etc.

The occupation also has a geodesic dome that was donated. Occupiers were watching movies that were being projected on to the inside of the dome.

For most of the evening, I was in the food tent. I listened as occupiers talked to me about some of the conflicts they have had in the camp (of which I will detail more later). I did two interviews. Each person was very interested in how Occupy Supply was started. I explained that we set it up to give all Americans a very real way to help the Occupy movement if they could not get down to an encampment to protest.

I stayed up until just after midnight. I witnessed two situations where occupiers had to put their foot down and tell people they could not be here. One involved a woman who had drawn blood on the site when she beat up her boyfriend. She tried to come get food and was asked directly to leave. The other incident involved a tall middle-aged gentleman with ponytail who came in quietly to get some food. He didn’t look like someone who had been organizing with the movement. He was asked to leave and not come back. But, he had no place to stay. The man returned and managed to convince a few occupiers to give him a sleeping bag.

When the morning came, Sam found him sleeping in the camp. He was not someone who had been protesting with Occupy Buffalo, though he claimed to be part of the “struggle.” He tried to steal a sleeping bag that is specially made for subzero temperatures. An occupier that is also homeless but has become an active participant in Buffalo, someone who is a pretty good-sized individual, confronted this man, who was told to get out of the camp. And they were able to get the sleeping bag from him before he could take off with it.

I slept pretty well overnight. Occupy Buffalo had a heater for my tent. I had two blankets along with a sleeping bag. So, for people who believe everyone here would have to be freezing, that is not the case, especially since occupiers here have Occupy Supply gear.

If there is anything I take away from being here overnight, it is that you really come to understand how you are responsible for yourself and others and must be vigilant and keep an eye out for anyone who might come into the camp and stir up trouble. Each occupier has to be diligent and mature. They have to potentially look someone in the eye and tell them they cannot be here and be willing to stay on them until they do leave the camp.

This is a place for challenging poverty and building a movement that will challenge the political and social forces that lead people to become impoverished.  There is only so much an Occupy site can do for the bottom 1%, who come here but do not want to protest.

When you are in a tent, you can feel a sense of pride because you are part of the vanguard of a movement that truly has the potential to impact society and perhaps win systemic changes that are necessary to the future of all people (e.g. abolishing corporate personhood or getting money out of politics). You can also hear cars whizzing by in the night, the wind and everything in the city space around you that makes noise. You can wonder if you will still be here tomorrow too. Will something happen to your tent while you are sleeping in the night?

Today, winds are expected to gust up to 40 mph. There was rain this morning. It could get colder and snow. But don’t talk about the weather with Occupy Buffalo. The weather is probably their last concern. They are here to challenge corporate greed, corporate personhood, the influence of money in politics, foreclosures and improper home evictions, those on Wall Street that deserve to be investigated, prosecuted and sent to jail for their role in the 2008 economic collapse, etc. They are here to make it through winter to spring and collectively have the confidence and demeanor to achieve this goal.

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."