Kanawha Plaza has been devoid of tents for weeks and Richmond Free Press Publisher Ray Boone’s front yard is vacant, but members of Occupy Richmond say that their protest continues.
Occupying abandoned or foreclosed-upon homes is one of the ideas being discussed as the movement enters its next phase, Occupy Richmond spokesman Will Carino says.
“We don’t want to be known just as a bunch of people who go out and yell at the establishment,” he says. “We want to show people that we’re actually trying to fix the community.”
A fluctuating number of protestors had been living on Boone’s property since Nov. 15. Boone, who lives next door to Mayor Dwight Jones, extended an invitation to the group following its ouster from Kanawha Plaza in late October.
For the occupiers, it was a coup. They’d grappled with City Hall over anti-camping ordinances for weeks, and saw an opportunity to hold a 24-hour-a-day demonstration in the shadow of the mayor’s South Richmond home. Along the way they were visited by U.S. Representative Bobby Scott, D-Virginia, and various members of City Council, Carino says.
After five weeks, however, some protestors say the demonstration had run its course. Only 10 to 20 campers remained, they say. As many as 60 protestors had consistently camped out at Kanawha Plaza for two weeks in October.
But did the protestors succeed in making their point? “I think our goal was to get people’s attention to voice where we stand on a number of issues,” Carino says. “And now there are a lot of people out there who better understand what’s going on.”
Following a break for Christmas, the group will return to its regular meeting schedule to decide next steps, including a proposal by City Councilman Marty Jewell to exempt Kanawha Plaza from the prohibition of camping in city parks.
The proposal receives its first hearing before a City Council committee Jan. 28.