Occupy Monterey looks forward to an uncertain future.
Thursday, January 5, 2012
The 20 or so tents clustered in Monterey’s Veteran’s Park look worse for wear Dec. 29 after nearly two months of continuous use. Their occupants, a mix of the older homeless population and younger (but equally unemployed) locals and travelers, are the last of Occupy Monterey Peninsula’s encampment.
They want to stay, but city officials may evict them on Jan. 20.
That date represents a small victory for Occupy Monterey’s legal team, which lobbied hard for an extension beyond the Jan. 5 expiration of the group’s original permit.
Legal team member Colin Gallagher says he’s pleased the city has given Occupy Monterey a slight extension and put their request for a longer stay on the Jan. 17 City Council agenda.
“The council could act to extend [the permit] further, but it may not,” Gallagher says. “We are aware of the city management’s desire to close down the camp.”
Assistant City Manager Fred Cohn says authorities’ sentiments toward the camp are based on simple economics. He claims numerous groups have made requests to use the campsite in the coming months – though staff can’t produce any group names or documentation to back that up – and they can actually pay.
The city has received $2,000 in donations from community members to pay for Occupy’s campsite costs, Cohn says. But parks staff estimate Occupiers logged around 2,200 camper nights in November and December. With fees of $6 per camper per night, the group is still short about $11,200.
For a while, it seemed Occupy Monterey at least had sustainability on its side. By working with city officials and the Monterey Police Department instead of railing against authorities, the local Occupy movement strove to create a cooperative community that quietly and legally camped out in Veteran’s Park. Refugees from disbanded Occupy encampments in Santa Cruz, Oakland and even Las Vegas flocked to Monterey’s peaceful enclave.
It hasn’t been all peace and love – Deputy Police Chief Phil Penko says officers have responded to 15 calls for service at Veteran’s Park since Occupy Monterey set up camp there Nov. 4 – but there have been no violent police-protester clashes à la Occupy Oakland.
“They’ve been very cooperative,” Cohn says.
Some Occupiers are ready to move on to greener pastures. “Our plan is to try and camp somewhere else,” says Katherine Cross, who’s been at Occupy Monterey since the beginning. Big Sur is next on her list.
Others, however, say they won’t leave without a fight.
“I’ll be the last one here,” says Herman Isaac, who grew up in Pacific Grove and has been homeless on and off for years. “The city should give us somewhere else to go.”
Penko says he and his staff have informed Occupiers there’s no other place in Monterey they can legally camp. Authorities don’t have a specific plan for addressing a new, non-sanctioned campsite, should one spring up.
“We are hoping the collaborative relationship we have developed with the Occupy group will continue, and help ensure non-sanctioned camping will not happen,” Penko says.
But Occupy Monterey participant Luana Conley thinks they shouldn’t stand down just yet. “This is a protest against the powers that be,” she said at the group’s Dec. 24 General Assembly meeting. “If we intend to stay within the lines, we might as well go home.”