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Occupy Grand Rapids stakes out a new campsite

About 30 people with Occupy Grand Rapids march through downtown towards their new camp.
About 30 people with Occupy Grand Rapids march through downtown towards their new camp.

Occupy Grand Rapids is re-launching the movement after several months of lying low. The group doesn't have specific demands, “it’s not one thing, it’s everything,” the group’s facebook page says.

But several of its members say issues like income inequality, corporate influence, and housing security are important to them.

Anita Finch drove up from Kalamazoo to take part in the renewed effort. She says strong protest movements build over time; like the anti-war movement in the 1960s.

"They didn’t have momentum constantly – it came in waves,” Finch said. “People have to go back to life sometimes and pay their bills and so we can’t always be occupying and assembling together, but this is exciting,” she said.

Finch helped lead protest chants during a march through downtown Grand Rapids this afternoon. Eventually the group of about 30 "occupiers" (as they call themselves) made their way under I-196 and set up a new camp on a grassy empty lot near the Grand River. More people were expected to come to dinner and “speak out” at night.

No one person speaks for the movement. For her, Finch says holding bankers accountable that the United States bailed out, is really important. She's concerned about fracking for natural gas in Michigan.

Finch says having common spaces like this, without being forced to spend money, is also important.

Last fall Grand Rapids Police forced them to leave a city park because it has set hours.

Their new camp is on a vacant lot owned by Kent County. They hope to stay as long as possible but it’s not clear they have permission from the county to do so.

I ran into occupier Sam Jones-Darling this evening on my walk home. He said city officials told him it’s likely the group will get evicted from their camp in sometime in the next 24 hours. They brought books, kids' activities, food, water and set up tents at the new camp.

“We still have multiple corporations that are controlling a lot of our government,” Darling-Jones responded when asked what his main concern was. Darling-Jones, who lives in Grand Rapids, doubts he’ll stay overnight.

Mason Purkiss wipes the sweat from his forehead before coming up with a long list of problems occupiers would like to fix. He says anyone with grievances should consider joining them.

“I’m not going to say we’re going to solve all the world’s problems overnight, but unless we start talking about them we’re not going to solve any of them,” Purkiss said. He plans to camp out.

Purkiss is here because he doesn’t like the country’s foreign policy or what he calls a "dysfunctional" Congress.

“Maybe there’s some people who don’t know who we are still,” Darling-Jones said.“We’re here to help the 99-percent overcome.”

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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