Residents want to “occupy” Chapel Hill and Carrboro, but they don’t know what for just yet.
Nearly 100 people gathered in Peace and Justice Plaza on Sunday to plan for next week’s Occupy Chapel Hill/Carrboro protest.
The occupation, which will begin at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the plaza, located at 179 E. Franklin St. in front of the post office, is part of the nationwide Occupy Wall Street movement to draw attention to political and social problems.
Facilitators of the movement began organizing the occupation last week, and met over the weekend with a group of local residents, employees and students to discuss strategies and goals.
But those involved in planning emphasized that much about the occupation remains undecided — including how long it will last and what will come of the protest.
Some attendees suggested occupying the plaza until change is seen, while others suggested protesting every Saturday.
While participants said they plan to occupy for many reasons, all rallied behind ideas of catalyzing social change and regaining power from governments.
Emily Waszak, who works in South Carolina, said she came to the assembly Sunday because she wants to be part of the larger movements happening across the country.
“I hope that a lot of issue-based organizations come together in solidarity to make a fundamental change,” she said.
At the assembly, participants split up into 12 work groups to plan, including outreach, logistics, sanitation, media, legal, food, medical and funds.
Bryon Polttes, a Chapel Hill resident of four years, said he thinks the town’s progressive atmosphere makes it open to occupations and social movements.
“We’re liberal enough for it,” he said.
During the next week, people involved in planning for the occupation will reach out to residents in an attempt to include as many diverse populations as possible, participants said.
Laurel Ashton, a senior women’s studies and African and Afro-American studies double major, said during the assembly that she was concerned by the lack of diversity in attendees.
Most of the people speaking at the planning meeting were white, she said.
Ashton said she is participating in the occupation because she has seen social problems increasing in Chapel Hill.
“I’m here because I, like many others, feel tired and frustrated by a system that puts profit over people,” she said. “I would like to see people who have shared dissatisfaction come together.”
She pointed to growing income disparity, increasing tuition at the University and gentrification in the Northside neighborhood as issues she would like to draw attention to in Chapel Hill.
“There are national problems apparent in our small town.”
City Editor Jeanna Smialek contributed reporting.
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