Occupy Colorado Springs did the responsible thing, and got a permit. And the local shop of the 700,000-member International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers took notice.
"That's what really drew us," says Glen Florea, a member of the Springs local IBEW 113. "It gave them credibility."
Since then, Florea has been spending his lunch breaks at Acacia Park. "We are looking to see if this is really, truly worth supporting," he says, "so I come down and take in a good look and report back to our area labor council."
On this Friday night, Florea's returned, joining about 40 people attending an OCS general assembly meeting. Following Robert's Rules of Order, and with one protester acting as a designated referee, the assembly is voting on rules copied directly from Occupy Wall Street's Good Neighbor Policy.
Some motions pass easily: calling for the occupation to stay positive, to show respect for fellow protesters and passers-by, and to not allow intoxication among protesters. However, on the motion that reads, "those who willingly break the law do not represent the Occupy Colorado Springs movement," there is a rift in the diverse gathering.
"When this first started," a young woman argues, "every single Occupy was probably breaking a dozen rules, including this one. If we are going to follow that, then we should all disperse, go home, and get over this."
"We cannot let our permit hold back our pursuit of justice!" a man declares.
"We have a permit," argues Shana, who asks that her last name not be used. "Are you guys forgetting that? We have a permit — a revocable permit."
"Let it be revoked!" someone yells.
"It's only a matter of time before they do take it away," another protester says.
"But we should not blatantly give them a reason to revoke it," Shana shoots back.
Locally, there has been little confrontation, no mass arrests, and nothing near the level of violence at other Occupy sites, including Denver. But clearly, some here see a downside to the current detente.
"To allow a permit to limit what we are doing — we're not really a part of the real movement, any of us," says one woman, "because we have negotiated our constitutional rights with the city by taking their permit and saying, 'Yes, sir, no, sir, we will do as you please, sir.' I have a constitutional right to be here and assemble."
Frustrated, this woman leaves the circle.
An hour after it began, the assembly ends at an impasse while discussing the rule, "Occupy Colorado Springs has zero tolerance for abuse of personal or public property"; the debate over what "abuse" means proves too tedious. A dozen protesters leave the circle, frustrated, and form their own circle a hundred yards away.
Watching all this, Florea says he isn't dismayed. There are numerous points in Occupy Wall Street's declaration on which the union agrees, such as concerns about outsourcing labor and the effects it has on workers' wages and benefits; the bailouts and executive bonuses; corporate money in politics; and the efforts to block generic medicines.
"We're just seeing if they can get it together," Florea says of the protesters. But he's quickly distracted.
"I no longer support this movement!" a young man shouts into the circle. "I support Occupy Wall Street! You are a joke, and you disgust me!" The man storms away.
Florea comes back to the conversation with a smile — after all, he says, early labor organizing "was messy, too." His hope for the movement, he says, is that it makes it through the winter.
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