Local News

Protesters weighing option of occupying Raleigh parking lot

Posted November 15, 2011 1:55 p.m. EST
Updated November 15, 2011 10:56 p.m. EST

— Members of the so-called "Occupy Raleigh" movement on Tuesday are considering an offer to set up a base in a downtown parking lot, which some say does not meet their needs. 

The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to prohibit the group from camping behind City Hall. The council said allowing such a camp would reverse efforts to prevent people from sleeping on city property, and members also cited concerns about security, cost, noise and potential crime.

Mayor-elect Nancy McFarlane brokered a deal for the protesters to set up camp in a privately owned gravel parking lot on the corner of Lenoir and Blount streets.

"When they asked for space, they asked that it could be from 7 o'clock at night to 7 in the morning, that they were willing to pack up their things during the day. So, I passed that all on to the property owner, and they're working that out," McFarlane said.

Some protesters said, however, that the site was unacceptable. It was too small for their needs, and it wasn't in a safe area, they said, noting it was next to a burned-out house.

Students at Shaw University, which sits across the street from the parking lot, also weren't thrilled by the prospect of a tent city near campus.

"I think it would bother a whole lot of people because it's right here by the school," student Asiaiana Littlejohn said. "We have to walk by it. We don't want to see all that. We don't want to hear all that."

Lot owner Muriel Boyd said she doesn't know if a deal can be reached with the protesters, noting that she leases out spaces in the lot for downtown parking.

Occupy members met Tuesday night and decided to allow some of the group to visit the site. A final decision will be made on Friday.

Members of the group said their protests will continue even without a base camp.

"I think the 'Occupy' movement is stronger than any one location," protester Joseph Huberman said. "The 'Occupy' movement will continue as long as there is this tremendous injustice with the accumulation of wealth in very few people."

Protester Kurt Zehnder said he isn't so sure the movement can grow without a base.

"There’s always going to be somebody here (protesting), but how effective that will be without a base camp, I don’t know," Zehnder said.

Since the demonstrators began their protest outside the State Capitol about a month ago, 28 people have been arrested, police said. Some were cited for overstaying a permit that has been issued to the group, while others were taken into custody on charges that they were blocking a public sidewalk.