Occupy West Palm group says new space is too small

Space has water and electricity

While they are happy the city of West Palm Beach is offering them a new home with water, electric and an overhang, the people of Occupy West Palm say the new space is not big enough.

"It's going to be a different kind of occupation all together," said Carol Meyer, one of the demonstrators. "It's going to start getting interesting from this point forward as far as where we're going."

City officials Friday outlined with yellow caution tape an area on the patio of the old City Hall building that was intended to be the new home for the protesters. The group has until noon Sunday to move from its current location near Olive and Banyan to the new location, which is almost only a parking lot away, in a city-owned lot, but much more hidden.

The group is forced to move to make way for a circus performer offering trapeze lessons at a rate of $90 per lesson.

Jennifer Hayes, 27, said the city has been saying, "You can do it, we don't mind," but feels people might not see them at the new location.

"If no one sees us then no one's going to ask questions," she said.

The patio is across from Saint Ann's Catholic Church near the 2nd Street and Olive intersection.

After seeing the area, some of the members say it will be difficult to pitch their 20-something tents on concrete, the area isn't big enough to house all the tents and it isn't in as public of a place as the current location.

Instead, they'd like the whole area surrounding the building including the side that faces N. Olive and Banyan Boulevard where the ground is concrete but also grass.

Leo Solar, 77, says the location offered is just a bump in the road.

"That's part of the territory. You get knocked down and come back," he said. "You gotta roll with the punches."

The group will meet this afternoon and come up with a decision on how to move forward.

Occupy West Palm has been far more peaceful in comparison with other Occupy movements protesting against corporate greed and social and economic inequality, such as Boston and New York City, where protesters have been evicted and violence has ensued.

In West Palm Beach, officials have cooperated.

"As long as they remain peaceful and continue to point out what they believe is wrong with our financial system I think they should have that opportunity," Commissioner Bill Moss said.

While some of those living in the encampment are homeless, he said the welcome the city has shown doesn't conflict with past policies. Two years ago, commissioners enacted a law, banning free food giveaways downtown, and sued two groups that refused to abide by it.

Moss said the law and lawsuit were fueled by complaints from families and business owners. Ultimately, commissioners settled the lawsuit by repealing the law.

Since then, the feedings have continued. And, he said, like the encampment, no problems have occurred.

Staff reporter Jane Musgrave contributed to this story.


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