Visiting Occupy Flint
As the only Michigan encampment to endure the winter, Occupy Flint is worth a visit. My opportunity came on March 1st. Once I spotted the tarps, I knew I had arrived. I was welcomed in, introduced and given a tour. I even got to meet their Occu-puppy, Revolution! To meet a few of the members of Occupy Flint, and to view their camp, take a look at photos here.
Kevin Gosztola’s post from January 2012 gives a good description of the camp and the effectiveness of their main tent. Thanks to Occupy Supply, a new military tent (second photo below) adds even more weather protected space.
The group is still standing strong and continues to work on many issues, including staying off the grid as much as possible. Three solar arrays are mounted overhead and make an interesting contrast with the nearby historic mural. A wood stove supplies heat to the main tent. A new “pedal power” bike has been recently built. Finally, a wind turbine (visible in photo of camp kitchen below) is hoped to be the next addition to the camp’s self sufficiency.
Occupy Flint is taking a stand in the heart of one of Michigan’s most stressed cities. Their facebook page states: Since October, 14th, 2011, Occupy Flint has maintained a constant, peaceful, and loving presence, 24 hours a day, in Flint Michigan. We intend to stay until we see significant societal change.
Flint, Michigan has a strong labor history. The Flint sit down strike 75 years ago was a key event in obtaining a living wage and fair working conditions for the 99%. With the loss of the auto industry, the city of Flint has been dealing with a long slow decline. Population has decreased from 200,000 to just over 100,000 in the past 30 years. Vacant properties and abandoned homes now stand where families used to thrive. The plight of the 99% is plain to see as you look around at the devastation wrought by a generation of falling wages and rising income inequality. According to the Genesee County Land Bank, there are over 9,000 abandoned homes in the City of Flint.
The City of Flint is no longer run by elected officials, but rather by an appointed”Emergency Manager”. Thanks to Public Act 4, locally elected officials are effectively removed from power, once an EM is appointed. Occupy Flint, as well as many other citizens and groups from Michigan, recently participated in a successful petition drive aimed at repealing Public Act 4. More than 226,000 petition signatures have been submitted to force a referendum on this issue in November.