Local News

Businessman charges Occupy Raleigh $400 a month to camp

Posted November 29, 2011 8:07 p.m. EST
Updated November 30, 2011 9:12 a.m. EST

— Protesters with the Occupy Raleigh movement moved into a more permanent base camp last week, thanks to a local business owner who saw his new tenants as a capitalist opportunity.

Rob Baumgart, who owns a Sprint and Nextel sales company called Chatterbox Communications, is leasing a 2,500-square-foot lot near the corner of West and Edenton streets, not far from downtown. He's charging $400 a month to the group of about 15 people who have braved the cold and rain to camp out for their cause.

It's what any small businessman who believes in making money would do, he said.

"That's $400 that I didn't have last month, and if the city allows me to continue doing it for 12 months, that's $4,800," Baumgart said Tuesday. "I don't know a single American who would turn down $4,800 a year."

The irony isn't lost on the protesters, but they say, after the city turned down their request for a spot in a Raleigh park, paying for a private lot was somewhat inevitable.

"You can't live outside the system you are fighting," said demonstrator Antonio Rahman. "If you were against global warming, that doesn't mean you can't drive your car anymore. If you want to get to somewhere to give a speech against global warming, you're probably going to need a car or maybe a plane."

"You have to use these systems to fight your battles," Rahman said.

City officials said they're looking into whether the base camp violates any laws.

"I will be respectful of the city. If they're happy with what's going on, (the protesters) can stay. If the city tells me to cease and desist, then I'll have to oblige," Baumgart said.

In the meantime, he and Occupy Raleigh said they're pleased with the arrangement.

"It wasn't comfortable being on the sidewalk at the Capitol, being in the rain for hours," Rahman said. "It's starting to get cold. It's winter."

The new camp has electricity, so protesters can cook and run small heaters, as well as a library.