The band of people that descended upon and dismantled Occupy Chapel Hill was friendly, and also a bit sentimental. About a dozen Occupiers showed up Tuesday afternoon to remove the tents, tarps and random detritus that had sat with them in Peace and Justice Plaza since Oct. 15.
The voluntary disencampment isn't an abandonment of Occupy Chapel Hill. At the press conference that followed, Katya Roytburd, who helped organize the event, proclaimed, "I would like to welcome everyone here to Occupy Chapel Hill-Carrboro's celebration of Occupy 2.0, the next phase of our existence."
The decision was made last December at one of the group's general assembly meetings amid concerns over the camp's long-term sustainability. At its peak, the camp filled the small square except for a thin strip of walkway. Up to 35 people slept there overnight; at least one person was there during the day. Food and medical supplies had to be provided. Sanitation and cleanup were ongoing concerns.
Stephanie Daugherty has slept the majority of the past three months in an OCH tent and was often responsible for arranging night watches. OCH occasionally had confrontations with drunk and belligerent college students, the homeward-bound patrons of nearby bars and homeless people.
"It's taken a lot of time and energy," Daugherty says, sounding drained. The tents and overnighters have dwindled to five and around a half-dozen, respectively. "The proximity to the street and the proximity to the bars, the concrete, how exposed the space really is [means] the site is really a great site to make a political statement. It's really not a great site to camp in."
By breaking down the encampment, the next phase of OCH frees up much energy and personnel for other goals. Future plans include other and more frequent events, outreach seminars and teach-ins. For instance, OCH is participating in Occupy the Courts in Raleigh on Jan. 20, and promoting a Jan. 21 foreclosure prevention seminar hosted by the N.C. Central University School of Law in Durham.
And even the tents won't be completely gone. Temporary encampments will sprout up around Chapel Hill and Carrboro as occasion and causes demand—the Roving Occupy. "It actually expands our ability to connect and make alliances with more people in our community, because not everyone comes to this corner of Franklin Street," says Maria Rowan, who is part of the Roving Occupy working group. She hopes that only having occasional campouts will renew enthusiasm and turnout for OCH events.
Others in OCH fretted about the value of a permanent physical presence. Daugherty says, "The encampment's been a visual disruption as you go down Franklin Street and gives you an idea that something's not right here." Arturo Escobar, a professor of anthropology and self-described sympathizer of OCH who makes occasional small donations, said it's "very important to keep the issues in the public imagination. They might take the camp down today, but this needs to continue in different ways."
OCH is mindful of preserving its momentum. The group's website and blog will continue to be updated, and the listservs will be carefully tended. Peace and Justice Plaza will continue to host the regular general assembly meetings, open to all. And there are talks of getting a permanent indoor space or setting up information tables on the Plaza.
Ultimately the disencampment is a calculation that OCH hopes will pay off. "We're voluntarily taking this down, which is a huge change from other Occupy camps," says Lila Little, whose large, brown tent loomed before the post office door. "But everybody's different, and I think this will suit us fairly well."
A group angered by Chapel Hill Town Manager Roger Stancil's endorsement of the Nov. 13 police action at the Yates Motor Co. building on Franklin Street will gather at 6 p.m. tonight at Peace and Justice Plaza and march to Town Hall where Stancil's report will be considered by the town council.
On that crisp Sunday afternoon in November, a Special Emergency Response Team charged and arrested eight people who broke into and occupied the Yates building, also known as the Chrysler Building, in attempt to turn the long-vacant property into a community center.
Critics say the police rushed in without warning and that the takeover of the building was peaceful and did not warrant a squad of police bearing assault rifles.
Stancil found in his report that the incident took place without injury and was warranted after two unsuccessful attempts by police to talk to the occupants.
Council will receive Stancil's report, released to the public late Friday, at its 7 p.m. business meeting.
The protest is endorsed by the Chapel Hill Prison Books Collective and Croatan Earth First!. The full press release is below.
In Town Manager Roger Stancil's eyes, Chapel Hill Police made "the best decisions that could be made given the information available at the time," when a Special Emergency Response Team armed with assault rifles arrested "anti-capitalist occupiers" who claimed the long-vacant Yates Motor Co. Building downtown in mid-November.
Stancil released his much-anticipated, yet-unsurprising internal review of the incident late Friday. He backed the police, who report to his office, because no one was injured in the Nov 13. raid, the building had not been inhabited or a decade and was unfit and because attempts to communicate with those inside were unsuccessful.
"The use of the SERT Team was appropriate because of their continuous training for special situations and their habitual training to act as a team," Stancil wrote. "This training minimizes the potential for unintended consequences and injury."
He found fault only with the way the two members of the press, Katelyn Ferral of the News & Observer and freelancer Josh Davis, were detained on scene. To that end, Stancil and Police Chief Chris Blue have met with some local media to create a fresh media relations policy that will be used by the police, emergency management and the fire department as protocol during emergency response situations.
Occupy Chapel Hill/Carrboro will enter its second phase next week when the group removes its tents from Peace and Justice Plaza on Franklin Street, according to press release issued this morning.
Occupiers have been holding camp in front of the Post Office there since Oct. 15, but amid the coming cold, and safety and morale concerns drawn from sleeping on the street in close quarters each night, the group is shifting strategy.
This blog entry and headline have been updated since they were originally posted.
The Durham City Council will swear in Mayor Bill Bell and three recently elected members tonight, beginning with a 6 p.m. reception outside the council chambers. Incumbents Bell, Eugene Brown and Diane Catotti were re-elected on Nov. 8 and will each begin new terms today. Newcomer Steve Schewel, who is the majority owner of the Independent Weekly, will also take his seat at the 7 p.m. meeting, replacing Farad Ali, who chose not to run for re-election after one term.
In Chapel Hill, Mark Kleinschmidt will be sworn in for his second term as mayor at 7 p.m. at Town Hall. Town council incumbents Donna Bell, Matt Czajkowski and Jim Ward were all re-elected last month and will take the oath of office tonight, as well as Lee Storrow, who at 22 will be the council's youngest member, and the youngest elected leader in North Carolina.
In Raleigh, the City Council will also hold a swearing in at 7 p.m. Mayor-Elect Nancy McFarlane will replace outgoing Mayor Charles Meeker. The eight-member council has one new face, Randy Stagner, who replaces McFarlane in District A. The remaining members being sworn in are all incumbents: John Odom, Eugene Weeks, Thomas Crowder, Bonner Gaylord, Russ Stephenson and Mary-Ann Baldwin.
In Carrboro, Mayor Mark Chilton will be sworn into his fourth and final term at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Board of Aldermen incumbents Dan Coleman and Lydia Lavelle and newcomer Michelle Johnson will also take the oath. Johnson replaces Joal Hall Broun, who opted not to run for re-election after serving three terms.
Steve Auerbach, the pediatrician with Occupy Wall Street and leader of Physicians for a National Health Program has scheduled two appearances in the Triangle:
Today at 4 p.m., Dr. Auerbach will speak at 207 Alumni Hall on the UNC campus, followed by a teach-in at 5 p.m. at Peace and Justice Plaza.
On Saturday at 10 a.m. he will speak in Durham at the Snow Building, 331 W. Main St., in the basement conference room.
According to a press release, both his presentations will focus on "how extreme economic and social inequalities, combined with the greed of private health insurance companies, are harming the nation's health and economy. He will also speak about how a single-payer health system an improved Medicare for all is a key remedy."
Update: The Joe Rowand Art Gallery was vandalized Saturday, Nov. 26, according to a Chapel Hill police report. Two large flower pots were broken, the business' banner sign was torn and the building was spray painted. Damage is valued at $1,100. No arrests have been made. The report is here. policereport.pdf
The Indy redacted some personal information for privacy reasons.
After declaring personal bankruptcy last year, Joe Rowand, former president of the now-defunct Somerhill Gallery, is auctioning 164 pieces from his own art collection Dec. 2–3 at Leland Little Auction and Estate Sales in Hillsborough.
Rowand filed for individual bankruptcy around the time Somerhill declared Chapter 7. The gallery owed artists hundreds of thousands of dollars for their work; this included some pieces that had been sold several years ago but for which the artists were not paid a commission. Meanwhile, according to court records, Rowand was drawing a $15,000 monthly salary from the gallery.
Ironically, Rowand’s personal cache, available online at llauctions.com, contains works by two artists listed as creditors in the Somerhill bankruptcy: Ginny Stanford of California, whom Somerhill owed $13,000, and John Beerman of Hillsborough, $40,000. These assets are not part of the gallery, and thus separate from any corporate legal proceedings.
Now legally absolved of his Somerhill debt through bankruptcy, (although since he didn’t pay the artists, one could question whether he has met the ethical obligation), Rowand has a new gallery on Legion Road in Chapel Hill.
Chapel Hill rolled out a proposed Community Plan for Northside and Pine Knolls on Monday that leaders hope will help combat a student-rental takeover that is pricing out the town’s black and working class residents.
The plan comes during a six-month moratorium on development in those neighborhoods meant to buy time to craft a plan to keep housing affordable and better relations between students and long-term, single-family residents.
“I feel like I’m fighting for my life, and I shouldn’t have to feel like that, but the reason I feel like that is because investors came into my community with greed,” Keith Edwards, a long-term Northside resident, said during the public hearing.
“They came in and just ran over us like a bulldozer taking away our way of life.”
Born out of meetings with stakeholders and drafted by town planners and the Sustaining OurSelves coalition, the plan focuses on affordable housing, cultural and historic preservation, enforcement, education and outreach, parking and zoning.
A group of Occupy Chapel Hill members plans to gather at the police station at 6 p.m. Monday and march to Town Hall and the Town Council meeting at 7 p.m. in opposition to last Sunday's raid at the Chrysler Building.
Mike Connor, who was handing out flyers that read "Protest Police State Chapel Hill" on Sunday, says he expects 200 supporters to participate.
"Some people are going to go in and lecture (the town) on civility," he said. "Other people are going to stand outside, have an open mic and have our own Town Council meeting."
State education officials are reviewing 27 applications for new charter schools across the state, including two in Durham County, two in Wake County and one in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school district.
A new state law passed this year raised the limit on charter schools in North Carolina, which previously had been capped at 100. The applications were due last Thursday, and will be reviewed by the N.C. Public Charter School Advisory Council (CSAC) before being submitted to the State Board of Education.
The applicants are aiming to have their schools up and running in August 2012. This first group of applicants is a special, "fast-tracked," pool because they have a previous relationship or record with the state, according to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction website. For instance, several of the applicants had been interviewed by the state before, but were not granted a charter because of the previous statewide cap.
The state will hold a separate, regular application process later this fall for other charter schools. Those applications will be due in April 2012. (More information on the application process)
The applicants in Triangle school districts are:
The Howard & Lillian Lee Scholars Charter School, Angela Lee
Research Triangle High School, Pamela Blizzard
Quality Education Academy of Durham, Alethea Bell
Widsom Academy, Craig James
Triangle Math and Science Academy, Kenan Gundogdu