Occupy 2: Arcata, CA

Arcata’s Occupy camp differed from Portland’s in a couple of ways. First of all, it was much smaller, initially set up in the middle of Arcata Plaza and then moved to City Hall. (Portland’s camp took up an entire city block.) Second, the people I saw occupying the plaza fit much more neatly into stereotypes of Occupiers being “hippies” and such. Third, when I sat in on a General Assembly the Friday before Halloween, there was an extensive discussion of committees and contacts with local businesses. I think Occupy Arcata is grounded in its particular community, much more tied to it, simply by virtue of Arcata’s small size.

And then, of course, Occupy Arcata has palm trees.

The first four photos are of the camp at Arcata City Hall. The rest of the photos are of the initial camp at Arcata Plaza. When I was taking the latter group of photos, I had a weird encounter with some man who claimed he was a “prophet of God” and who asked if I supported the movement with a slight hint of threat in his voice. He said he had gotten 3 people arrested that day who were trying to hurt the movement.

My other encounters with Occupiers that day were much more positive. I took some cookies to the camp and talked to the woman at the kitchen. She said earlier that day she’d found a man to read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that he was a “human megaphone.” I heard someone reading the declaration later that day before the assembly, so either he read it twice or she found another man to read it. She also told me the police had been “awesome” but that some of the businesses on the Plaza didn’t want them there. Perhaps that was the reason for the focus on contacts with local businesses at the assembly.

I left the Plaza for a while and then came back and took more pictures of signs. Another woman asked me what I was doing and I explained about this blog. She said she’d been there 8 nights straight and then had gone home to take care of something things and then had come back. So she’d camped for 10 nights total, she said. She pointed out the men playing the accordion and drums and called them the “house band.” When I asked them about it, they said they’d been there 10 minutes. Occupy humor, I guess.

Then I listened to the meeting. The “leader,” if that term is correct, wanted to set up an oversight committee, despite one person’s objection that there was a lot of oversight all of a sudden. He also said he was tired of being everyone’s mommy. There was a long discussion of whether to move the camp from the Plaza to City Hall (by Halloween, they had moved). One man said the police had said they were obstructing business (especially the farmer’s market, held in the Plaza on Saturdays), and another reminded everyone that the point of the Occupy movement was to obstruct business. My favorite comment came from a man with curly hair who said that Arcata Plaza was a “pretty bitchin’ place to occupy.”

As I listened to the Assembly, the crowd got larger. It got colder. I looked around at the flimsy tents and thought of the comment by a homeless man that they had kept the Plaza clean but they would dirty it up again if they didn’t get heard. A small group of people, trying to accommodate everyone.