The occupation of Raleigh continues.
Occupy Raleigh moved into its third day today, following a Saturday kickoff that brought at least 1,000 people to the State Capitol, according to organizers, and saw 19 of them arrested and quickly released without bail. I was away over the weekend and can't provide a first-hand crowd estimate. Other media estimates were in the hundreds. I can say definitively that at 2 o'clock this afternoon there were 17 people on the occupation line, not counting a few I saw on Fayetteville Street who were taking a break. Raleigh police have set up barricades and are allowing the occupiers to remain on the sidewalk on the Capitol's south side — looking down Fayetteville Street — as long as they don't block other pedestrians. Until 7 this morning, the cops weren't letting anybody sit down, however. Since then, they've relented — but they're still enforcing a rule against attaching signs to the barricades. If you've got a sign, you have to hold it or lay it down.
Twice-daily meetings, or General Assembly sessions, continue to be held at 12 noon and 6:30 p.m., the participants say. If you plan to stop by — and why would you not? — these meeting times would be a good way to get oriented.
When will Occupy Raleigh end? "Maybe never," was Kurt Zehnder's answer. The Raleigh waiter had been awake for 52 hours when I talked to him. He was there Saturday, got arrested (his first such arrest), was released, came back, stayed the night, left to work yesterday from 3 to midnight, then went home to change clothes, stop at Wal-Mart to buy some posterboard for a sign (his first sign was trashed by the police Saturday night), and here he was at mid-day Monday still going strong.
"I think the plan is, [stay] as long as we need to," Zehnder said. "New York is in Day 29. We're in Day 3."
What will constitute winning, I asked Zehnder and Margaret Schucker of Raleigh, another long-termer on the line?
His answer: When corporate influence is removed from politics. It won't be just one thing that happens, obviously, but many — which is why he wonders if the Occupy movement will ever end. Schucker, nodding, said victory will be achieved when "we throw the bums out," the bums being all the politicians who've been bought by corporate money.
Is that all politicians? I asked.
Schucker paused. "Possibly some local politicians are exceptions," she said, but yes, at the national level, as far as she's concerned, all politicians have been taken over by the big-money political process.
Occupy Raleigh, and the entire Occupy movement, "is about transparency, fairness and respect" for human beings, Schucker said. She made the mistake of watching Republican presidential debates and was disgusted to hear the audiences boo a gay soldier, laugh at the thought that people who couldn't buy health insurance should just die, and applaud Rick Perry's record of 234 executions in Texas.
And, of course, the Republican candidates just took it all in stride. "How did compassion become un-American?" Schucker's sign said.
But it's not just the Republicans, she added, nor will electing Democrats cure the problems. What will cure it, she said, is when enough people join the movement and elected officials can't ignore them any longer. In that sense, Schucker said, the movement is succeeding brilliantly. "Yes," she said firmly. "It's beginning to open some eyes."
Angela Schulte agrees. A Cary woman with 12 years experience in corporate sales and customer service, she said, but who is currently unemployed, Schulte was one of the first to join the Occupy Raleigh ranks and has been among its chief organizers. She was not arrested Saturday — "I had to make a personal decision not to be," she said — and needed to rest on Sunday. But she was back Monday morning and feeling good.
"Given the pro-corporate environment in Raleigh, I had the feeling that it would be harder here to break through and be heard, and to some extent I think that's proven to be the case," she said. "Overall, the movement is going very well [and] growing by the day. Look at all the honking, happy cars going by," Schulte said, gesturing as one more honked while we talked. "People are noticing, and a lot of people are in solidarity with this. They may not be out here occupying, but the heart of this —
"I remember talking to a man in a convenience store and telling him about the Occupy movement, and he literally wanted to jump for joy. It's clear that a lot of people feel a part of this."
On the other hand, Schulte said, one driver had just yelled, "You need to be at work," as he went by. This "unwillingness to consider an alternative point of view when people are suffering and hurting," Schulte said, "it's simply unfathomable to me."
While I was there, Stacie Borrello arrived. She'a another of the core organizers, someone I spoke to when I posted about Occupy Raleigh a week ago. Borrello, with her two-year old son Jackson in tow, was feeling great about events. She said friendly lawyers are negotiating for Occupy Raleigh with the N.C. Department of Administration. The department controls the Capitol grounds. No predictions, but Borrello thought a deal to allow the occupation to continue in some ongoing way without the threat of police removal hanging over it was in store.
By the way, props to U.S. Rep. Brad Miller, D-Raleigh, who's been a visitor to Occupy Raleigh and did an interview with the N&O's Rob Christensen the other day, and to Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, who stopped by Saturday and spoke to the crowd. Also, state Rep. Bill Faison, D-Orange, has been by at least twice. Are there other elected officials I don't know about?