(UPDATE: Arcata Police Chief Tom Chapman released this letter calling on Occupy Arcata to "remove all tarps, tents, and structures from the Plaza immediately. Continued violation ... will be subject to arrest.")
The following was posted by Travis Turner -- a Navy veteran, freelance writer/photographer, and Humboldt State student -- on his Facebook page Thursday morning.
I listened to several people in the community yesterday, and voiced my own concerns about the plaza and what was happening down there. I stayed up all night on the quad at HSU thinking about this movement, what it means to all of us. Or at least what it should mean to all of us.
Yesterday a friend who works at an investment firm in town told me that, with a friend, she tried to go down and talk with the protestors in the plaza. She said the people there were inarticulate, didn't know what the movement was about and basically the situation there was disgusting from a hygiene point of view.
I agreed. I watched a video where some protestors screamed racial slurs at my friend Rodney Dickerson and chanted "Fuck You Cops" as they arrested two people. The arrests did not have to happen and one could say it was initiated by the officers intervening in the plaza situation in a very unthoughtful way. Writing one person a ticket in the plaza for camping in the middle of an encampment seems a bit thick.
I went down the next morning and checked on the camp and it seemed peaceful. I went down last night and saw people heading over to Eureka to stand with their group in case the police tried to evict them. Still peaceful.
It was smelly. You could smell urine. You could tell people were living there and the protestors did not have access to clean clothes, showers, sinks or bathrooms
So now we want to take back our plaza. We want to push these protestors out. My question is, are we seeing the bigger picture? Am I seeing the bigger picture?
Our country is suffering, the people are suffering. Thirty million people are out of work, more are underemployed. We have more people in poverty than ever before. We have the largest percentage of homeless veterans per capita in the nation and that number is growing. Two homeless vets work and sleep at the HSU quad. Both are in school. Both are working diligently to help change our system here. Beyond that we have widespread mental illness, child hunger and systemic apathy to problems like these all over our county. We push people into the forests and hills so we don't have to look at these problems. We don't want our children to see a bunch of homeless people on the plaza. Yes, some are travelers here for the working season, but not all. These things are only getting worse, not better. The scene in the plaza will be repeated all around this country and soon we wont be able to push it out of our sight.
Here at HSU I know students who can't afford to rent a house and go to school. I know students who live in that forest, on people's couches and in cars. I know that hundreds of students work in the marijuana industry here to make ends meet. Sometimes in very dangerous situations. I know the school over the last decade has consistently replaced living wage jobs with minimum wage student work.
Our financial system is in ruin. Our government has taken a giant leap from its senses and allowed/is allowing one of the greatest swindles in history. It is corrupt, our banking institutions are corrupt and our country and the people who live here are suffering by the millions. Yet, we worry about taking our plaza back.
Here is another option. Grab a tent and join them. Teach the young and old there to harness that anger, from a lifetime of being stepped on in this system, that there is a different way. Susan, get a bathroom constructed ASAP. I will raise money for public, single stall showers to be installed in the Endeavor House. Let's subsidize a laundromat like our electric company subsidizes grow ops. Let's feed people. Let's spend time with the smelly unwashed masses, because damn it, they are us. They are the cousins who lost their homes in unfair/illegal foreclosures. They are my sisters who were laid off. They are my brothers who pay more for less education. They are all of our problems. Let's own those problems and be a light to the rest of the world. Let us teach. Let us be compassionate.
Let's all join in on the conversation, together.
My fingers are frozen this morning. I have a home to go to, things to do, but I am here on this quad because I think it is important. I am going to go down to Arcata today and I will march with my brothers and sisters as they march on BofA because I think it is important. I am going to look past the smelly parts because that is a function of our inability to be a real community. I am going to try and put a stop to the drinking and smoking at the camp. I am going to try and put vets in shelters.
What are you going to do? This is a messy business, being a community. Time to get your hands dirty.