Occupy Charleston participant and U.S. Army veteran Rue Fitzpatrick started protesting in Occupy New Haven, Conn. After a month, he started traveling to other Occupy camps. He sees Charleston as an area that is in "desperate need of help."
"I'd been in the Army for four and a half years. I got out and there were no jobs for soldiers at all," Fitzpatrick said. "It hurts to see that. I really wanted to do something about it."
While the holidays pulled some participants back to their homes, Charleston occupiers say they will be back in public view soon. They haven't decided on a future encampment location, but the group is planning daytime protests and marches near Kanawha Boulevard and Davis and Haddad parks.
Mayor Jones maintains that occupiers are "not going to move into one of our parks. They're not going to have any tents. That's not what the parks are for."
Matheney said he hopes the mayor will recognize the protesters' right to assemble.
"I think Occupy Charleston would be no more than exercising their right as a citizen of this country, to stay wherever they might on property that is not only supported by, but provided by, our tax dollars," he said. ". . . Those of us at West Virginia AFL-CIO support Occupy Charleston, but we support the Constitution and feel that those who speak out are the greatest patriots."
A general assembly meeting for Occupy Charleston was held Saturday in Davis Park, but was closed to the news media. The most recent event scheduled for local protesters is the Occupy the Court rally on Jan. 20. From noon to 5 p.m., participants will gather at the Robert C. Byrd Federal Building to "protest the Supreme Court's decision to treat corporate money as " 'free speech,' " according to the rally's Facebook page.
Hedda Haning, one of the event's organizers, said the rally is one of many to take place nationally, including protests in Clarksburg, Martinsburg, Morgantown and Fairmont. Hanning said the group invited delegates and senators, and hopes to talk to Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin, both D-W.Va., about the Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case, which allows corporations and labor unions to fund political advertisements on the same basis as individuals.
According to news reports, the Occupy movement is organizing a massive general assembly for July 4 in Philadelphia. The plans are found in a document posted online by an "Occupy Wall Street" working group, titled "The 99 Percent Declaration." The proposal says the assembly would operate similarly to the original "Committees of Correspondence" -- the Founding Fathers who met in Philadelphia prior to what the group refers to as "the first American Revolution."
Trevor Payne of Occupy Charleston said the group will be actively protesting at least until that date.
"It's the only real chance for change," Payne said, "and I won't give it up for anybody."
Reach Shelly Davidov at shel...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4882.