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What Next For Occupy Columbia, Charlotte?


The Occupy Charlotte camp. Photo: Tanner Latham High-profile Occupy Wall Street encampments have been disbanded by police and government officials across the country. Late last week, it was Occupy Columbia's turn. A federal judge in South Carolina approved an emergency rule that bans camping on the grounds of the state's capitol building. Here in Charlotte, protesters continue to campout at Old City Hall, but their days may be numbered. Occupy Columbia protesters dug in their heels, got lawyers and managed to stay on the statehouse grounds 24-7 for more than 2 months. "Now, we're trying to regroup," says Occupy Columbia protestor Shaw Mitchell. "We need to figure out how we can still get the word out and build a movement to change our political system." Mitchell says the tents were a powerful symbol for communicating the Occupy message - and the encampment helped the protestors gel as a group. Now it's time for Occupy Columbia 2.0, says Shaw, which may or may not include large groups waving signs at the state capitol. Shaw says Occupy Columbia is evolving into something that may be more palatable to supporters who were sympathetic to the message, but hesitant about high-profile protests. "Those people may be able to get more active because we're not gonna be out in the open on the statehouse grounds in front of news cameras," says Shaw. "We'll be organizing communities behind the scene and all other different forms of activism." Shaw notes Occupy Columbia has already been active in opposing a new big box store proposed for the city's center. Occupy Charlotte protestor Deanna Bridgwater thinks a similar evolution is in store for the movement here. "I think that a lot of people in the community are quite frankly put-off by the camp, so whether or not the camp remains, I think we need to do a better job as a movement of getting out in the community, making our voices heard with people who are like-minded but may not be that educated about what's really going on," says Bridgwater. Bridgwater has been involved with Occupy Charlotte since it began in the Fall, but has not spent a night camped at Old City Hall. She says the group has not come to a consensus about how long to continue the camp - which currently comprises a few dozen tents. The Charlotte City Council may give them no choice: a council committee is now considering a new ordinance to ban camping on public property.