Occupy Wall Street scatters as Occupy Wilmington gathers
November 15, 2011By Alison Lee Satake
As protesters with Occupy Wall Street were arrested and displaced in New York today, Occupy Wilmington organizers announced the group is in the process of filing for non-profit status this week.
The group that set up camp in front of Wilmington City Hall on Third Street on Saturday has been meeting and organizing at a picnic shelter at Greenfield Lake Park for the past two months, said Angela Johnson, a member of Occupy Wilmington’s financial workgroup. It has a 30-day permit to protest outside of City Hall.
Although the group is in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement that has sought to empower citizens disenfranchised by political and financial systems, Occupy Wilmington’s main focus is on local initiatives.
“Besides demonstrations we want to create workshops that will empower members in the community that will give them more job skills,” Johnson said. “We have a lot of people out there who are ready to donate their time and energy.”
The group held a computer workshop at Greenfield Lake Park earlier on two donated laptops, but the turnout was low. The group plans to organize free workshops on financial and legal information touching upon topics such as, student loans and mortgages, which will be held outdoors.
“We’re trying to keep everything mobile,” she said. “The encampment is wherever we’re holding events.”
Johnson said about 1,000 people have registered as members on-line. “[But,] the maximum we’ve had is 350 at one time in one place,” she said.
Its membership includes medical professionals, teachers, software and information technology developers, construction workers, veterans, artists and students, many who are employed.
“We’re entirely in support of local business,” Johnson said. “The biggest message we want to send is a lot of small- and medium-sized business members are among our ranks.”
One of the reasons why the group wants to file for non-profit status is to foster collaboration with non-profit organizations and local institutions. They have already approached UNCW to increase community involvement, she said.
About six to eight local people initially called a meeting through Facebook two months ago. Since then, the group has organized into several workgroups that include IT, medical, legal, kitchen, de-escalation or “security,” social network, financial, media, creative, outreach, sanitation and comfort sub-groups.
“It’s a leaderless movement,” Johnson said. All decisions are made by vote, she said.