Now entering their seventh week of protesting, Occupy Charleston participants are cold, wet and miserable. You can read more in my story for today’s Charleston Daily Mail. (You also could go buy an old-fashioned paper copy. Those are more fun to read.)
When Daily Mail photog Bob Wojcieszak and I visited the Occupy camp on Monday, I came away with a whole lot of stuff that didn’t make it into the story. I suppose that’s what blogs are for. So here goes:
I mention early in my story that people are sleeping in the camp’s main tent, even though they’re not supposed to. What I didn’t mention is that some of them are sleeping on church pews.
The Occupiers bought three old church pews from our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore. They originally intended to use them for seating at their nightly “general assemblies.”
The pews are set them up inside the main tent in a U-shape, giving the space a ramshackle tent revival look. Instead of a pulpit, there is a torpedo heater. A local carpenter’s union donated it to the protestors. They’re having trouble keeping a large enough supply of kerosene to run it.
Behind the heater hangs a giant dry erase marker board. It’s covered in scribblings. Protestor Trevor Payne said they use the board for announcements and to post information for the group’s “teach ins.”
Foot traffic and recent heavy rains have turned the ground at the Occupy Camp into a sloppy, muddy mess. They’ve put down metal grates and pieces of plastic to make walkways, but it’s impossible to walk anywhere without getting your boots dirty.
Note: If you plan on visiting the Occupy camp in Charleston, wear boots.
Protestors have spread straw on the ground to dry up the mud. Payne said the straw needs to be shoveled up and replaced, especially in the main tent, because some occupiers have spit and vomited on it.
The pantry, a tent set up inside the main tent, appears to be well-stocked. They’ve even got a small refrigerator for perishable items. Payne told me people stop by regularly to give the protesters food.
On Monday, they dined on chicken portobello stew. Most ate from plastic containers, including reused Chinese takeout bowls. One guy ate his lunch from a hollowed-out bell pepper.
Across from the pantry is another tent, the community storage area. There’s a small clothes rack inside. I spotted a WVU jacket. There are more clothes scattered on the floor. Payne said people don’t respect the storage area. It gets ransacked every time somebody leaves the camp.
As Bob and I were leaving, I noticed a white Dodge van parked outside the occupier’s main tent. Two lines formed on either side of the car, one at the driver’s window and another at the front passenger’s window. The people in the lines were disheveled but did not look like protesters.
A lady in line told me she was waiting on a free cell phone with 100 minutes of service. I asked Payne about it.
“Obama phones,” he said. Free cell phones for the poor.