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Occupy Chapel Hill sees increase in support after police raid

People involved with Occupy Chapel Hill were arrested and put on CHT buses.
People involved with Occupy Chapel Hill were arrested and put on CHT buses.

In the two days since Chapel Hill police raided the former Yates Motor Company building, Occupy Chapel Hill members say they have seen an increase in local support for their movement.

The raid, which resulted in seven arrests of protestors who were associated with an anarchist movement known as “occupy everywhere,” coincided with a nationwide crackdown on protests affiliated with Occupy Wall Street.

Nick Shepard, a member of Occupy Chapel Hill, emphasized that the actions of protestors on Sunday were not a collaborative effort between the his group and those affiliated with “occupy everywhere.”

Occupy Chapel Hill has occupied the Peace and Justice Plaza since Oct. 15, advocating for economic equality through non-violent tactics.

“Police in every city are cracking down on the movement in all its peaceful manifestations,” Shepard said. “It’s prompted conversation of the direction of the movement, and that’s obviously a big turning point.”

Occupy Wall Street protestors in New York City were ordered to vacate Zuccotti Park on Tuesday, as were other occupiers in several other major cities throughout the past week.

Shepard said Sunday’s events, paired with the national protest raids, helped give the local occupation more legitimacy.

Michal Osterweil, press correspondent for Occupy Chapel Hill and lecturer in the Curriculum for Global Studies, said she has already noticed an increase in attention for the movement.

“To be honest, yesterday at General Assembly there were more people,” she said. “People wanted to know what happened, and it became a productive face of discussion.”

Chad Johnston, another press correspondent for Occupy Chapel Hill, said he expects the increase in involvement to continue because of Sunday’s raid and publicity.

He said whether Occupy Chapel Hill will change its approach or tactics because of police treatment is a question that will be decided by consensus of the group.

“I believe as we move forward and decide how we do it, it will be in a smart and thoughtful manner,” Johnston said.

But he said most occupiers agreed the town’s use of strong-armed tactics was unnecessary.

“The group was pretty together on the fact that the response from the Chapel Hill Police Department and their actions toward unarmed citizens was reprehensible,” he said.

Sgt. Joshua Mecimore, spokesman for the Chapel Hill police, said police hope to continue an open dialogue with the occupiers at Peace and Justice Plaza.

“We expect it to stay peaceful and cordial,” he said. “As long as that remains the same, our position will remain the same.”

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