Occupy BG digs in downtown

Occupy BG group camps
out in downtown area (Photos: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)

Back in the 1960s, Nancy Brownell was involved in an occupation of the administration building at the
State University of New York Brockport.
The anti-war protesters got the administration to cancel finals, and instead hold teach-ins, Brownell
said. But then all the students left, leaving just a tiny core of activists, and one strong leader with
his own agenda.
That experience, Brownell said, disillusioned her,
Monday though she was at the site of the Occupy Bowling Green encampment in the Community Commons space
in the 100 block of East Wooster Street.
She said she was first drawn back into political activity by the anti-Issue 2 campaign, and has now found
a place in the Occupy movement.
“I’ve been watching things deteriorate since, really the 1980s. It’s just been so bad in the last 10
years that finally I could no longer not do anything.”
The Occupy movement has no leaders with all decisions requiring 90 percent of those assemble agreeing.

She’s one of the group who has been occupying the site since Saturday afternoon. The number of occupiers
fluctuates between a half-dozen to about 40.
Monday night was the group’s third night sleeping at the site, sheltered by tents and tarps.
Bowling Green Public Safety Director John Fawcett said the city was taking “a hands-off” approach and
will “allow them to express their beliefs.”

Wes Stiner sweeps area
near tents

“While the city hasn’t given any formal permission to occupy Community Commons, we will allow them to
stay there. We will get involved only if they do anything disorderly or would be a hazard to themselves
or others.”
Wes Stiner, one of the occupiers, said they are keeping the space clean and working with the nearby
businesses. “They’re working, too. We don’t want to hurt their business.”
A hand-made sign posted prominently at the site declares: “Safe Space no drugs no alcohol no violence.”

Meghan Sutherland, another occupier, said their presence has sparked a number of
discussions, and some expressions of support — “honks, waves, fist pumps,” she said.
There’s also been a few negative responses, she said.
A driver shortly after drove by and shouted at the occupiers, “get a job!”
Sutherland said on Saturday night, the first night of the encampment, a sorority had already arranged to
sell grilled cheese sandwiches in the space. The occupiers, just cleared their gear from the space, so
the grilled cheese stand could be set up.
Those sandwiches attracted Josh Schellenberg, from Nashville, Tenn., who is visiting the area. He stayed
for the assembly impressed by the courtesy of the group and was busy Monday noontime sweeping the area.

“Everyone’s here for a different reason,” Sutherland said.
The occupiers “want to organize organically and figure out for themselves what to do. Everyone has an
equal voice.”
Too often, she said, “people expect someone else to do it for them … You have your own voice. No one
can speak for you.”

Wes Stiner takes a break
from sweeping

That process of creating a community is central to the Occupy Wall Street movement, said Dalton Jones, of
Bowling Green. That’s “essential to developing the kind of democracy we want to see at the political,
social, interpersonal level.”
The movement in Bowling Green has drawn a diversity of people, from veterans of the 1960s anti-war
movement to recent high school graduates, he said. And they represent a variety of political views. Some
are against capitalism. Others are critical of the way capitalism now functions.
Stiner said his main concern was that “the conditions for the working class seem to get worse every
year.”
“Politicians are continually promising the world and then delivering a corporate agenda,” he said.
There’s a continual “degradation” of individual rights and “intrusions into our lives … creating a
sense of being criminal just because you’re poor.”
Jones said the Bowling Green occupation faces many challenges. Fewer people are able to stay at the
encampment during the work week, and winter is coming. “The process of solving those challenges is as
much about what we’re doing as coming up with a list of demands.”