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Occupy Buffalo Growing

Occupy Buffalo's first media and information center. (photo by Geoff Kelly)

Last Saturday, perhaps 400 people, maybe more, filled Niagara Square, despite the rain and seasonable temperatures, to take part in the third general assembly of Occupy Buffalo. In the previous days, individual tents had sprung up like mushrooms; the occupiers had constructed a makeshift headquarters of tarps strung between trees; all of this new settlement endured dramatic winds through the later part of the week.

Since then, a portable lavatory has appeared (adorned with a homemade sign that reads “Occupied”) as well as a big white tent that looks sturdy enough to endure a Buffalo winter. Another tent just like it is on the way, an occupier said on Tuesday afternoon. Maybe two. The occupiers, despite their on-again, off-again permitting status with City Hall, are hunkering down.

The seeking of permission to continue the occupation was the subject of debate at Saturday’s general assembly. Some of the 99 percenters felt that the occupiers should abandon the permitting process, as sooner or later the city was likely to say no; most believed that the occupiers should continue to seek permits; all agreed that the occupation of Niagara Square would continue, whether they city issued permits or not.

As of Tuesday, the protest was unpermitted, though it seemed likely that the organizers of the big preservation conference in town, who have a permit to use Niagara Square for the duration of the conference, would agree to add Occupy Buffalo to their permit. After all, folks are coming from around the country for this conference, and what vibrant, happening city is complete without an indigenous Occupy movement?

On Wednesday evening, a committee of occupiers planned to meet and discuss new iterations for the protest, focusing on local issues and local actions: advocating for local governments to remove their business from the banks that are the subjects of the broader Occupy movement’s criticisms; supporting local credit unions; pushing government and the private sector to engage the causes of a host of progressive organizations in the region, from PUSH Buffalo and Buffalo First to the Coalition for Economic Justice. Stay tuned.

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