By SAM INGLOT
Capital News Service
LANSING—Organizers of Occupy protests across Michigan plan to work through the winter, but whether they continue to live in city parks and public spaces varies by city.
“We widely see camping out as one tool in the tool box,” said Scott Warren, a media contact for Occupy Grand Rapids. “One tool is not going to fix everything in a house so we need to look at what our next tool will be.”
The Michigan groups are working with Occupy Wall Street in New York City, where the movement started in protest against the 1 percent of people who they say control the country’s economic wealth and caused the country’s economic downturn. They have efforts in Grand Rapids, Lansing, Detroit, Flint and Ann Arbor.
The presence in city parks is only the first step of a wider goal to draw attention to financial inequalities and social injustices that protesters say plague the state and country, Warren said.
Occupy Grand Rapids operates out of Fountain Street Church in downtown Grand Rapids. That will be the base of operations over the winter and occupying the park will not be a main concern, he said.
About 30 people over the winter plan to coordinate with other Occupy Michigan groups on statewide actions, Warren said.
There are as yet no actions planned, but he said now is a key time for the movement.
“I think that wintertime is the time when people are waiting for this to fail,” Warren said. “The opportunity to make it through the winter and build upon our reserves and come back more focused and powerful is what is going to prove people wrong and I think we’ll win over a lot of people’s hearts and minds.”
Detroit organizers say they haven’t decided whether to occupy public space over winter.
“Over the course of the winter, we’ll be building a movement,” said Lee Gaddies a media liaison for Occupy Detroit. “We’re not trying to stay at a park in Michigan in 2 feet of snow in 20 degree weather.”
The group comprised of close to 200 people has been given office space and continued community support, Gaddies said. It plans to focus on Detroit-centric issues over the winter like home foreclosures and corruption among elected officials. Gaddies would not reveal specifics to the actions the group is planning.
Gaddies agrees that occupying a park is only one route of protest. He said the group has encouraged people to move their money from banks to credit unions and to help Detroit businesses by shopping locally.
Occupying Grand Circus Park, where the protesters camped for more than a month in Detroit, is no longer a priority, Gaddies said. But others disagree. There is still a sense that certain parties within the group value the symbolism of occupying a public space, said Matthew Dzieciolowski, another organizer with Occupy Detroit
In Lansing, organizers plan to stay in Reutter Park despite the snow and freezing temperatures.
Camping in the park is a symbol of protest and the movement, said Peyton Twombley, a protester with the Lansing group. Some problems arose i when city inspectors told the protesters that they were in violation of health and safety codes when preparing food for the public.
But the group is working with Lansing fire marshalls and health inspectors to make sure the camp is up to code and able to serve food and have portable heaters, Twombley said.
“We believe this movement started in a tent and should end in a tent,” Twombley said.
Twombley said the group might consider using a storefront for storage and printing.
The overall message of the organizers across the board: There are no plans to stop protesting for the winter.
“We’re in this to win it and people need to realize that this is a long-term thing,” said Gaddies of Occupy Detroit. “This isn’t about one action, this is about changing the direction that this country is going.”
© 2011, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Nonmembers cannot reproduce CNS articles without written permission.
By SAM INGLOT