Day one of Occupy Louisville turned out to be a day of excitement, adrenaline, radicalism, and confusion. Labor unions, single-payer healthcare supporters, MoveOn members, environmental activists, and scores of people with no affiliations, or affiliated with a wide array of other groups, came together to lend their support to the cause. Young activists discussed tactics that could be used if the police swooped in to do mass arrests. The microphone was freely given to anybody with something to say. There was dissent over where the event should be held, whether or not the city approved, and whether one of the locations was being manipulated by anarchists.
By nightfall of day one, the occupiers had responsibly appointed several medics in case the need arose. This one identified herself only as "Yogurt."
By mid-morning of day three, the crowd of several hundred had thinned to fewer than a dozen people, most of them students. But don't count the occupation over yet. Some 30 people spent the night outside to maintain the protests continuity. In the morning, many of them had to go to classes or work. They will be back!
While the participants are maintaining their commitment for the occupation to be a "leaderless movement", that should not be mistaken with it being a disorganized movement. Using as purely democratic techniques as they can come up with, the group has managed to develop some norms of behavior, managed interactions and negotiations with the police, figured out how to move themselves between the visible location where they can demonstrate during the day and a less visible location where it is legal for them to spend the night, and even established twice daily governance sessions so that people who can't stay all day know when they should be there to have a say in important decisions.
Come 11:00 p.m. when the protesters had been told they had to move to the Belvedere, the police were ready for anything. One bystander estimated that there were over 50 police cars and 70 officers. They quickly dispersed, however, as the protesters had already begun to set up camp at the Belvedere.
Among the successes so far, not the least of which is the fact that the occupation has been maintained without interruption for several days, is that they have been collecting donations of food and water and other basic necessities, they have built a web site where they can communicate what is going on and what is needed. As Internet access allows, the site will broadcast live streaming video from the occupation.
Among the challenges the protesters are working on is getting cellular based wi-fi access so they can improve their communication. They are also beginning to work on organizing events and activities that will keep those Louisvillians who cannot occupy, engaged in joining the movement for whatever time they can spare.
The morning of day three showed a much diminished crowd, but evidence of the 30 or so people who had spent the night, and a growing stockpile of supplies that will be needed for the long haul.
While the occupiers do not yet have a list of demands they are ready to commit to as a group, every individual who has been there has one or more issues they are passionate about and, as they tell their stories, a theme does emerge. It is a theme that does not reject the notion of government, but that often suggests that government has been hijacked and corrupted by powerful institutions; that it has lost its focus on "we the people."
Louisville.com will bring you updates on the occupation as long as it lasts and as much of the unfiltered voices of the occupiers as possible, so check back frequently. In the meantime, you can find specifics as to what types of donations the occupiers need, when they are having events, etc. at their new website. http://www.occupylouisville.org.
Louisville.com's The Arena section features opinions from active participants in the city's politics. Their viewpoints are not those of Louisville.com (a website is an inanimate object and, as such, has no opinions).