by Joe Schwartz
A group of Occupy Chapel Hill members plans to gather at the police station at 6 p.m. Monday and march to Town Hall and the Town Council meeting at 7 p.m. in opposition to last Sunday's raid at the Chrysler Building.
Mike Connor, who was handing out flyers that read "Protest Police State Chapel Hill" on Sunday, says he expects 200 supporters to participate.
"Some people are going to go in and lecture (the town) on civility," he said. "Other people are going to stand outside, have an open mic and have our own Town Council meeting."
Sunday afternoon at the Peace and Justice Plaza where the group has camped for five weeks, Occupy Chapel Hill held a discussion on how to respond to the deployment of a Special Emergency Response Team, which netted seven misdemeanor charges for breaking and entering.
A group of anarchists claimed the Chrysler Building, or Old Yates Building, which has been vacant for almost a decade, last week and began organizing there. Police, who were met with angry chants, monitored the building overnight before sweeping in with long-range rifles.
In the initial days after the arrests some members of Occupy Chapel Hill attempted to distance themselves from the protesters who broke into the privately owned Chrysler Building by making clear that the full Occupy Chapel Hill group never authorized or sanctioned that strategy. Now they are focusing more on the police response and call the protesters who claimed the building "peaceful."
"There is a paramilitary presence in our community and we've got to recognize that and kick it out," said Carrboro Alderman Sammy Slade, who has been active with Occupy.
The far-ranging, open discussion focused initially on the overall aims of the Occupy movement before delving into how to achieve them.
Some felt they were having success at the Peace and Justice site, where the town has been friendly to protesters, even helping them safeguard their site during the Halloween celebration on Franklin Street. They wanted to connect their movement to others in town including fighting local developers attempting to wipe out affordable housing.
Others advocated a different strategy, and questioned if laws or human needs should rule the day.
"They are only allowing this because they don't see us making a change here," said Liz Reeves, who added that police responded to the Chrysler Building because they worried that "If you give activists a building, they'll want another."
"When people start to shake the tree and shake it hard, they shut us down. If we stay in the system we are going to have a hard time making any changes and making them quickly. They want us to fizzle out."
The protest will likely disrupt an already packed Town Council agenda that includes a proposed strategy to curb gentrification in Northside and Pine Knolls, and discussion on allowing food trucks in town and banning cell phones while driving.
The Chrysler Building response is only slated to be discussed in response to a petition from Jim Neal, a 2008 candidate for U.S. Senate and Chapel Hill resident who wants an independent commission to review the police response.
As it does with almost every petition, the council is expected to receive Neal's request and refer it to staff to make a recommendation at a future meeting.