Occupy Chapel Hill enters its ninth day today with nearly a dozen camping tents still pitched in Peace and Justice Plaza.
The protest began as an extension of Occupy Wall Street but is now focused on bringing the movement to the local community by encouraging an open dialogue with residents.
Kassandra Ofray quit her job with Chatham Marketplace in Pittsboro to join the movement. She said the protests can generate community discussion.
“I saw an opportunity to change the world and wanted to invest all my time working on that,” she said.
Ofray said the protestors represent a diverse set of people and opinions.
And that diversity allows the protest to resonate with different people, said Stephanie Daugherty, a protestor and volunteer at Internationalist Books and Community Center.
A table full of pamphlets at the edge of the tents, which cover topics from herbal healing and anti-fracking to anticapitalism and anarchism, is a testament to the protestors’ many concerns.
Protesters say they have received positive responses from the community.
Chapel Hill residents have offered monetary and food donations. Employees from Jimmy John’s and Krispy Kreme have donated leftover food, and Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe is advertising Occupy Chapel Hill events on its website.
But not all response has been positive, said Ron Mayse, a resident and UNC alumnus. Harassment and derogatory remarks happen on a nightly basis, Mayse said.
At the group’s general assembly meeting Saturday night, protestors debated how to best handle potential tension with Franklin Street revelers on Halloween.
They discussed how involved they should become with law enforcement at the event. They expect more police officers on the street and disagreed on whether engagement with police would be helpful or cost them autonomy.
Occupiers had discussed going in groups to banks to protest and cancel accounts, but tabled their original date and time.
Protestors also debated whether their movement should have a focus in response to criticism that they lack a defined purpose.
But Ofray disagreed.
“We’re raising awareness and starting conversations,” she said.
Bryan Gaston, a graduate student at UNC who has been active with the movement since it began, said those conversations have kept him involved.
“I came with an interest in corporate lobbying in regard to environmental law,” he said. “But also an interest with the diversity of opinions.”
Daugherty said the protestors are eager to engage people, not to incite or antagonize them.
“Come out and talk to us,” she said. “Even if we disagree, we want to hear what you have to say.”
The protestors plan to remain in front of the post office until things change, Daugherty said. She invited anyone interested to attend general assembly meetings, which occur at 6 p.m. nightly.
“The easiest way to find out about us is to come by,” she said. “We’re not just protestors. We’re a community.”
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