Occupy Pensacola lost its tents—and the right to camp overnight—this past weekend. Since then, a downsized contingent has held its ground. Tuesday morning found them clustered on the corner of the north lawn making way too much noise for Paull to sleep in.
“This is what democracy looks like,” a girl laughed through a megaphone.
Paull—an ex-Marine who has been an active voice in the local Occupy movement since it’s inception in mid-October— sat up in his cot. Another day of occupation has begun.
“We now have a permanent police presence,” he said, noting the black-and-whites across the street.
City officials have accused Occupy Pensacola of vandalism. Over the weekend, the doors to City Hall were chained and locked shut and an air conditioning unit was disconnected. Officials also reported that the lawn had been littered with sheets of plastic.
“The plastic sheeting was Occupy Pensacola,” Paull said. “That was us.”
Apparently, Occupy Pensacola was using the plastic sheets as covering from the rain. Paull said there was also a plastic sheet “tent” erected in Mayor Ashton Hayward’s parking spot. The other acts, he said, were not sanctioned by the group.
As law enforcement has been more actively monitoring Occupy Pensacola, protesters have apparently been interacting with the officers. Paull said the interactions were colorful, but not “mean spirited.”
“They are human, so they were likely irritated,” he said, adding that the officers hadn’t responded and wouldn’t give their names.
About that time, Pensacola Police Chief Chip Simmons happened along. He said he likes to check in on Occupy regularly “because I love Gary.” Reflecting for a second, he reevaluated.
“I don’t know about a ‘close bond,’” Chief Simmons clarified.
“We have a cordial relationship between two humans,” Paull said.
The Chief checked out the group’s makeshift library and Paull’s cot. The rest of the Occupiers watched the conversation from the sidelines.
“This is, like, the Cadillac of cots,” Paull said, showing off his layers of bedding.
“That is a pretty good cot,” Simmons agreed.
The two discussed the vandalism issue. Paull expressed concern that officers had been refusing to give their names.
“I’ll talk to’em,” Simmons said, before giving the gathering a once-over and heading into a Pensacola City Council meeting.
Paull said he’ll be spending Thanksgiving on City Hall’s lawn. He’s heard rumors of a turkey dinner.