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Still Occupying

Occupy Memphis makes plans to stick around despite their recent eviction.

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The area across from City Hall that housed the Occupy Memphis encampment for nearly 10 months is now unoccupied.

But even though the tents and handmade posters calling for an end to corporate greed are gone, thanks to a surprise eviction from city officials two Fridays ago, members of the last remaining Occupy encampment on public property aren't giving up.

Eleven people from Occupy Memphis gathered at Civic Center Plaza, in the place that once housed about 20 of their tents, for the weekly General Assembly meeting on Sunday night to discuss what's next for the local arm of the national movement that has attempted to shed light on the disproportionate distribution of wealth in America.

The Memphis group, which had camped on the plaza since last October, was evicted on August 10th in the wee hours of the morning by Mayor A C Wharton's administration, claiming the campsite had become unsanitary and people were bathing and urinating in the public fountains.

"None of us were bathing there. I took people to my house to bathe," said Alicia Rumbarger, who has a home in Bartlett.

Terry Carrico, who has camped at Occupy since it began in Memphis, said it's possible some homeless people who were not part of the Occupy camp were using the fountains as bathrooms. But he said no one from the camp had done that.

At the General Assembly, members discussed ways to stay relevant and active despite losing the home base on the plaza. Carrico said the group will be occupying corners at intersections for smaller protests against corporate greed and other issues.

"With us taking our signs to the street corners, we're going to get a lot more exposure than we had down here," said Joe Walker, an Arkansas farmer and Occupier, at Sunday's meeting.

The General Assembly meetings, which have been a staple of the movement since it began, will continue every Sunday at Civic Center Plaza at 6 p.m. However, the group voted to meet at the Edge Coffeehouse in Cooper-Young when the weather is bad.

Also on Occupy's agenda for the future: a First Amendment demonstration outside the Cecil B. Humphreys School of Law on Friday, August 24th, at 11:30 a.m., a plan to reach out and align their efforts with local groups fighting for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equality, and a weekly newsletter.

Rumbarger is organizing a yard sale of Occupy camp supplies to raise money for printing costs.

The national Occupy movement often took criticism for not being cohesive or having a solid plan of action. But at least successful grassroots movements were born out of the Memphis Occupy group's organizing efforts — the homeless advocacy group, H.O.P.E. (Homeless Organizing for Power and Equality), and the Memphis Bus Rider's Union, which attempts to raise the level of service and dignity in the city's public transit system.

Now, Rumbarger says the group plans to throw its support behind existing groups.

"With the elections coming up and the voter suppression issues going on, we thought we'd throw our weight in with some other groups that have already got something going on so we don't have to reinvent the wheel," Rumbarger said.

Although Occupy members were sad to see their campsite go, they're trying to make the best of the situation.

"Now we can take our message to different parts of the city and not keep it centralized downtown," Carrico said. "Since we're not there anymore, we can reach out to different neighborhoods and do volunteer work and really get our name out there."

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