Occupy RVA continues despite pressure from city, winter-like weather

Mechelle Hankerson
News Editor

Participants at Occupy Richmond are working on repairing damaged and flooded tents as quickly as possible to provide more shelter for occupiers. Temperatures are supposed to rise early this week, but forecasts are still calling for temperatures in the 30s at night.

Two weeks in to their occupation, Occupy Richmond is encountering its first major challenges.

With this weekend’s unexpected colder weather, participants (who gather downtown in Kanawha Plaza) had to deal with low temperatures in the 30s as well as rain.

“(The weather) makes it really hard and makes it a bit dangerous,” Megan Walker, a participant, said. Walker, also an urban planning major at VCU, said she doesn’t spend many nights in the Plaza, but she has come out to occupy consistently since Oct. 15 when the occupation officially began.

Occupiers stay in tents, many on pallets to avoid any damage or flooding in the tents, but some of the tents were not prepared for the precipitation that came Saturday.

The Legal tent, which houses participating lawyers and the movement’s police liaison, was flooded as was the Safer Spaces tent.

“We’re working on drying those out so people can go back in them (and) so people can go in there and warm up,” Walker said.

Early Saturday, the makeshift camp lost the power that was providing hot water and meals. Walker said the power source wasn’t imperative, but participants would need more blankets.

On Saturday, temperatures fell to 38 degrees, but are expected to rise back into the 60s on Tuesday.

“If we can get everything prepared, and we can learn how, and we can set up, then we can do it quickly for when winter does kick in,” Walker said.

In addition to dealing with the unexpected drop in temperature, Occupy Richmond has recently come under pressure from local government.

Last week, Richmond City Council refused to vote on special legislation introduced by councilman Marty Jewell that would suspend certain city codes to allow the occupation to continue without police involvement.

On Thursday, Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones visited Kanawha Plaza where he told occupiers he planned to enforce city codes. According to Occupy Richmond’s website, this means police involvement is a very real possibility.

Despite the pressure from the mayor’s office and winter-like weather, occupiers are planning to continue their indefinite occupation of Kanawha Plaza.

“People sleep outside all the time,” Walker said. “People have been doing it for years, and we have a lot of resources and a lot better organization than they have available to them, so I think we’ll be able to do it.”

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Photos by Amber-Lynn Taber

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