Since the early evening hours of Oct. 8, Nashville has been occupied. Besides being the opening line of our pitch for the next summer blockbuster, that sentence, with the date and place altered, is also now true for many cities around the country. Who are these occupiers? Well, that depends who you ask.
We’ve heard everything: They’re an angry mob; they’re hippies; they’re a communist army wielding freedom-eating bongo drums. And honestly, all of that pretty much sounds like our beat. But just to be sure, we paid a visit to Legislative Plaza, where varying numbers of folks have been sleeping on a marble bed in the shadow of the Capitol.
We found the group to be quite diverse and friendly (before and after we identified ourselves as members of the media). Members of the Objectivity Police will be glad to know we turned down repeated offers to take part in a warm meal that had just been delivered. Below, meet a few of a Nashville’s occupiers.
Employment: Retired systems engineer
Role: When we visited the plaza last week, Dunn was manning the kitchen. He said he’s been working the day shift and staying as late as he “can hold up.” He also helps with security and emphasized, with the emphatic support of some surrounding occupiers, that “there is no drugs, dope or alcohol” in the camp.
Why Occupy? “Because I’m a veteran of the ’60s [protest movements]. I knew what these people would be up against.”
Role: Artis said he comes to all the group’s General Assembly meetings and is an active contributor in the group’s discussions about the movement. We can verify this as we’ve been to a good number of the meetings as well and seen him in action. He missed out on some of the Nashville occupation because he had traveled to D.C. to join in with Occupiers there. Back here, he’s slept on the plaza and occupied it most days (thanks to a convenient fall break for Nashville’s schools.)
Why Occupy? Artis said he found his “political identity” during the early years of the Iraq War and that he’s here in part “in response to America’s violence in the world.” As for the movement’s economic focus, he said he’s on the Plaza to get the country talking about the right issues. “I’m out here to try to change the narrative so we can have these discussions.”
Employment: A Kansas native, Gomez spent two years at San Francisco State University, pursuing a degree in environmental studies, until he said he became “disenchanted with the institution” and left to travel the country (and the world) in search of “intentional communities.” So, he’s currently unemployed.
Role: Gomez told us his main role is connecting people with resources and with each other. We know this because within minutes of our arrival he offered us resources and introduced us to several people. He said he’s also been involved with sustainability efforts within the group.
Why Occupy? Upon landing in Nashville, Gomez said he felt drawn to the community created by the Occupiers. Furthermore, he said, “People are increasingly disconnected with the things that affect their lives — this is a chance to reconnect.”
Employment: Consultant, working with businesses and nonprofit organizations.
Role: Malina is on the “media team,” one of several working committees formed by the Occupiers. As such, she has agreed to do radio and television interviews, and talk to the rare print-media types that come around. She also said she’s been a general “gofer” for the group, fetching scarves and coats and any other resources needed to prepare for winter occupation.
Why Occupy? “I’m out here because I care about the weakest people in our society. I’m tired of watching and not acting.”
Employment: A student at Vanderbilt’s Divinity School seeking her master’s degree.
Role: Krinks told us she’s been sleeping on the plaza and has been involved in promoting interfaith participation in the movement.
Why Occupy? Krinks said she was motivated to join the movement by her faith (Christianity): “We have systems that perpetuate injustice,” she said. “As a Christian, when we’re with people who have been dealt with unjustly, we’re with Jesus. I’d love to see more of the faith community get involved. We’re doing things all faiths agree with — fighting injustice.”