01:00 AM EDT on Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Link to the article: http://www.projo.com/news/content/OCCUPY_PROVIDENCE_10-05-11_HEQOP0Q_v10.6b021.html
By Richard C. Dujardin
Journal Staff Writer
Inspired by the protests that have gripped New York’s financial district for more than two weeks, close to 80 Rhode Islanders met under drenching rain late Tuesday afternoon to plan for similar protests in coming days in Providence.
The group, Occupy Providence, has held three meetings over the past few days at Burnside and Roger Williams National Memorial parks, and Tuesday night’s gathering was the largest so far.
When the skies opened up around 5:40 p.m. and the participants, ranging in age from 20s to 60s, got drenched, they held their ground, reflecting the tone set by Jarad Paul, one of the night’s facilitators.
Standing on the pedestal for the statue of the park’s namesake, Civil War Gen. Ambrose Burnside, Paul declared, and the crowd chanted back in unison, “Rain feels good. I’m scared of no rain.”
The gathering was billed as an organizing session and participants broke into smaller groups — media, food/sanitation/medical, tactics/direct action and facilitation — to plan the next events.
Plans include a protest in front of the state Department of Education in downtown Providence at 4 p.m. Friday, and a much bigger Occupy Providence campout in Burnside Park — which they plan to rename People’s Park — to coincide with a national day of protests on Oct. 15.
The group here is one of many groups across the country that have arisen in recent days following the protests on Wall Street.
Paul said participants have agreed that all protests here would be nondestructive and nonviolent.
Any decisions, he said, will be made by a majority vote.
Mel St. Laurent, Tuesday night’s other facilitator, said she and others believe the group should be “leaderless” and that different pairs of volunteers should take turns each night serving as facilitator until everyone has had a chance to serve.
Until now members have relied on social media and word-of-mouth to connect with each other. The group had 1,300 followers on its Occupy Providence Facebook page as of midday Tuesday.
Though many issues have been mentioned by those on the website, participant Shane Jones said he’d like to see the creation of an “alternative power structure” that would truly represent the people. Right now in electoral politics, he said, “we’re allowed to occasionally vote for someone to misrepresent us.”
At 7 p.m., after deciding to continue their session in the tunnel beneath the Rhode Island Foundation building, participants chose Burnside Park as the site for the Oct. 15 protest, because of its proximity to Bank of America, Textron and other places of corporate power.
Longtime activist Joyce Katzberg told the group that she had occupied the park many times, beginning with the time when “I swam in that fountain as a kid in antiwar demonstrations.”
“If you feel the emotion coming from me,” she said, “that emotion comes from a place of healing needing to happen.”