Pensacola, Florida
Wednesday November 26th 2014

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Occupy Update, Getting Comfortable


Settling out to what is becoming the new-normal, Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza is now base camp to a steady two to three dozen people. Occupy Pensacola is entering into its second week and it looks like the tents are staying pitched for now.

“There’s nobody talking about leaving yet,” said Rebecca Heyer, one of the original organizers of the local event.

Occupy Pensacola, like multiple such encampments that have sprung up across the country, is connected with the Occupy Wall Street protests which began in New York City in mid-September. The groups do not have a specific message, but are loosely protesting a system they see as broke.

“Welcome to my office,” Heyer said Monday, looking around the Pensacola plaza.

Tents line the sidewalk, which has been decorated with neon chalk messages. A PA system broadcasts splices of political speeches set to a danceable beat. In front of the medical tent, a man plays air guitar on a broom stick.

“It is going great,” Heyer said.

Since first taking to the downtown plaza Oct. 15, the Occupiers have made themselves quite comfortable. There’s food and books and music. The weather’s been nice.

Last week, a contingent of the group approached Mayor Ashton Hayward and were able to strike a deal with the city. Now they have portable toilets, electricity and an extension on their original permit.

“They’ve been totally cooperative with us,” Heyer said of the city, adding that the permit issue will have to be readdressed soon.

In addition to lounging about the plaza discussing the country’s problems, local Occupiers are also attempting to come up with some solutions. Beginning in November, the group hopes to launch the Pensacola Solutions Project. In short, problems will be identified and work groups will be formed to address them, working through the appropriate channels in an effort to better the community.

For now though, everyone seems pretty content just kicking back on the plaza and enjoying a beautiful autumn day. The sun is shining and there’s an old science textbook that looks pretty interesting in the make-shift library.

“Aw, man, are you gonna dread your hair?” a kid asked a girl as the two passed along the plaza sidewalk. “You should.”