By Diane Paik
Old Town Times Staff Writer
As the Occupy movement spreads across the United States, Michigan’s capitol city has caught the Occupy fever as well, although Occupy Lansing consists of a smaller number of participants compared to sites such as Zucotti Park in New York.
The occupation of Reutter Park in Downtown Lansing was declared on the official website for Occupy Lansing http://occupylansing.us/ on October 12, 2011. Reutter Park or “Solidarity Square,” the nickname given by its new residents, is located on the corner of Kalamazoo St. and Capitol Ave., near Thomas M. Cooley law School. The occupants have set up camp and are preparing for the brutal winter cold.
Ian Eberhart, a former resident of Old Town, took part in the protest at Reutter Park for a few weeks during September and October. He is optimistic about the connection Occupy will have with Old Town.
“It’s basically a movement that encapsulates what people who live in Old Town have been living for their whole lives,” said Eberhart. “Freedom of speech. Freedom of being.”
“Movements like this are not only connecting the nation together as a whole, but within each occupy, the surrounding area becomes linked as well,” he said. “Old Town is made up of small businesses that are owned by hard-working people. The community really backs us up and believes in what we’re out here for.”
Although Eberhart is no longer camping at the park with the other occupants but he likes to be informed of what is going on and still remains connected to the action.
Reutter Park is now a second home for many including 15–year-old Roman Collins of Laingsburg. He now spends as much time as possible at the site with his fellow protestors.
“It’s not our government,” said Collins. “We didn’t pay for it. Well, we pay our taxes but who pays, you know, who are the people that lobby our elected officials who are supposed to represent us. So I mean what I would like to see out of it (Occupy) personally would just be the separation of business and state.”
Roman is one of a handful of activists who are not from the immediate area. From Chicago to the neighboring community of Old Town, people are coming together for a singular cause.
A resident known only as Raphael is constantly on site. He said that he wants to build strength in numbers as well as passion.
“We need people,” said Raphael. “If neighboring cities can come together to build one strong Occupy instead of having trickles of them throughout Michigan, it would be really impactful.”
As winter approaches, Occupy Lansing is no longer allowed to stay over night in the park because of health and safety concerns. Mayor Virg Bernaro has been supportive throughout the whole process and Occupiers are respectfully abiding by the city’s requests.
“You can crush our skull but you can’t crush our spirit.”
Watch the video: Occupy and Unify