WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — As Occupy Wall Street nears its second month of protests in New York City, members of Occupy Wilmington have pitched their tents downtown, right between City Hall and the Historic Courthouse.
Dozens of local occupiers marched from the Federal Courthouse on Water Street to their encampment next to City Hall Saturday afternoon.
Police eventually told them to leave because the group did not have a permit to camp out in the park.
“Encampment is a freedom of expression,” Occupy Wilmington Member Angela Johnson said. “I think anything the group can do to get movement and to get involved in the community is something I’m in support of. I see other things like community actions we’re taking like volunteer work to be just as important as encampment. I think for us, this is a way of getting in front of the community and connecting and letting everybody know they are part of the 99 percent. They are not alone in this.”
“It depends on how long it takes. You’ve got to wake up citizens,” Occupy Wilmington member Joe Santos said when asked how long the group planned to camp out. “You’ve got to wake up the politicians, both locally, on state level, and on the national level. So, as long as it takes.”
“One of those things that our tax dollars pay for it,” said Maria Diaz, who had slept at the site Saturday night. “We should be able to use it and we’re just trying to do it the right way.”
“They came up and politely asked to leave and we politely decided to comply,” said Denny Best, an Occupy Wilmington participant.
Right now the group has a permit to stay on the sidewalk in front of City Hall for a month, but they say they plan to stay there as long as it takes to see a change.
“A change in the world,” said Diaz. “Until someone sees that the 99 percent of us that are here that are getting stepped on by the top one percent, until something happens to help us.”
Besides opposing big corporations, the group is standing up for several issues including better benefits for veterans and active duty service members, and promoting clean industries and small businesses in Wilmington.
“My husband and I both own small businesses and the big corporations get major funding and major tax credits and the small business community is just left to flounder,” said Lynn Harris, a participant in Occupy Wilmington.
About five stayed over night and the group will take shifts every few hours at their site.
“We’re kind of skirted under the rug a bit, we’re a bit invisible,” said Diaz. “But, just because you turn your head doesn’t mean we’re not here because when you look back we’ll still be here and we’ll still be fighting for what’s right.”
Several downtown businesses have been giving away food and discounts to the group in support of their movement.