RALEIGH — The sky was gloomy Sunday morning, but one of the people who are Occupy Raleigh was not feeling that way as she helped clean up the camp the group had maintained on a triangular swath of land in downtown Raleigh since November.
“As many people as are going to drive by and see us have driven by” and it is time to look for other ways to protest, Jes Cronmiller said as she poked through the few tents and other assorted goods left at the site at Hillsborough, Edenton and North West streets.
The group, modeled on the Occupy Wall Street group that began in New York City and spread to cities around the country, began in October and moved onto the parcel in November after trying a couple of other sites. Tents went up, along with a makeshift library, a kitchen and signs protesting economic conditions in the U.S. Portable toilets arrived, and the shifting population made its public statement.
Occupy marked its 100th day in downtown Raleigh in January. They regularly protested at the State Capitol to draw attention to the distribution of wealth in the U.S. population. The New York City group had made “the 99 percent” a well-known reference to ordinary citizens by repeatedly stressing how much wealth is in the hands of the richest 1 percent of the population.
“It’s not sad. Don’t portray it as a sad thing,” Cronmiller said of the decision to break camp. Rather, the group decided at a general assembly meeting in late April that the camp had served its purpose, she said.
Before Occupy Raleigh arrived, the land had been used as a parking area for patrons of a nearby restaurant. At one point, the landowner had said the group would have to move because of insurance liability issues, but Occupy found a donor to help it get coverage and solve that problem.
In February, members of the group had talked about looking for an indoor gathering spot, but the outdoor camp remained. That was the decision made by the group, which became known for expressing support or rejection of ideas with hand-waving gestures, for not having leaders, and for rejecting audio technology in favor of having members act as “microphones” to repeat everything that a speaker said so everyone could hear it.
“I haven’t slept here in a while,” Cronmiller told a man who stopped by asking for a woman who he said had been there last week and he now could not find.
As she looked through the remaining material, hoping to find items that would be useful for artwork she does, she recalled her participation. She said she and her husband had taken turns being part of the Occupy overnight occupation while the other stayed home with their daughter, she said. Her daughter was with her for the last day, however.
“We’re going to clean this up and make it nice, plant some grass,” Cronmiller said. Occupy members would return from time to time for meetings, she said.