It was just the kind of dark and stormy night we remembered, gathered in the October rains at Washington Square, helping set up tents with a crowd gathered around a cooking fire and huddled in the kitchen tent while stump speeches emanated from the statue, free to all with the passion. It’s been two years since I’ve even protested, three since I was here last, but the same scene we knew so well was about to play out – and this time we’d seen the show before, and had some idea what was headed our way.
This time the conflict was a purely local one, coming to us from below the grass roots, taking up the fight for Rochester’s beleaguered homeless. After a few thwarted attempts, Maggie Brooks’ county government forced the last few dozen ‘residents’ of the Civic Center Garage onto the streets at the end of last month. With political means not getting them very far, direct action at the garage stymied twice (the county went as far as to detain and threaten to arrest not only the homeless but also the activists assisting), and Election Day just two weeks away, it was time to take a stand. And so Sanctuary Village appeared, a tent city in Washington Square, designed to provide temporary shelter while shoving the issue of Rochester’s homeless front and center for visitors and workers downtown.
Still knowing to tread lightly after their first experience trying to clear out Washington Square of that potent mixture of transients and activists, the county response started off slowly, with no police raids, but also no concessions made, on the first night of the camp. However, this afternoon, the City government, led by Mayor ‘Lovely’ Warren, stepped in and put a deadline on the camp to clear out by the time the park closed tonight. An ultimatum which many of us remembered all too well.
And as soon as I heard about it, I was on my way to the square too to join in and record what was going on, just like on those Occupy nights.
10:20 — The spirit of Occupy lives on! Action and police involvement expected NOW / within the hour at Washington Square, come support the cause of Rochester’s displaced homeless population!
10.25: Sister Grace advises that arrests are likely to occur and if anyone needs a place to stay tbey are welcome to move tents somewhere else. No one appears to be moving. SOLIDARITY!
10.48: All tents and people who are not getting arrested: the camp will move to the Subway entrance when the action begins
10.53 We have about 20 protestors willing to face arrest, but we’re always open to more. The action has yet to begin, join us at Washington Square!
10.56 Channel 8 is here and will be going live at 11.
11.00 My own personal prediction based on the events of 2011 is that the action will start in 35 minutes when the news ends. There’s still plenty of time to come support, even if you aren’t getting arrested there’s still solidarity.
11.10 the TV has come and gone, but the chanting is just starting. Who shuts shit down? WE SHUT SHIT DOWN!
11.35 We think this is about to begin. No cops yet though
11.36 “Rochester is full of empty buildings, empty blocks, empty houses. We need to confront the city, make a proposal, USE THEM! ”
11.43 A whole lot of nothing so far. I have to wonder if they’re playing the waiting game, hoping we’ll leave before shit gets real.
11.52 More speeches and chanting. All riled up with nowhere to go.
11.58 no sign of them yet. It’s only a matter of time now. Come to Washington Square and support the Occupation!
12.00 midnight Ryan called the police chief, asked for another night in the park and negotiation with the City. Expecting an answer in 10 minutes.
12.04 an RPD black car, presumably the chief, has arrived.
12.09 THEY’RE STAYING THE NIGHT! No police involvement tonight, and there will be a meeting with the city tomorrow! Thanks Sister Grace, Ryan and whoever else made this happen!