Categorized | Featured, News, OWS

Virginia Right! Blogger Visits Occupy Richmond and is Shocked by what he Finds

Going perhaps a bit undercover I wandered down to Kanawha Plaza in downtown Richmond this afternoon to get a few pictures and gauge the people of whom I have been so critical first hand, up close and personal.

It was a cold and rainy afternoon with a snow storm moving in to our west and north. Pellets of sleet intermittently mixed with the light drizzle and the temperature hovered in the low 40’s. Cold and nasty.

I expected exactly what I had heard and seen on the news. Trash, filth, drugs, human excrement and terrible odors. And obnoxious people demanding handouts.

In fact, that is what I went down there to document.

But a strange thing happened on the way to expose these greedy freeloaders for the vermin we believe them to be.

When I drove by yesterday, the tents and signs and scraggly people confirmed my impression of the place. From the outside looking in, everything appeared to be exactly as I had seen in the media and read on the internet.

But that was on the outside looking in.

I parked the car, put 50 cents in the meter, and headed into the modern day version of Sodom and Gomorrah.

And I was stunned at what I saw.

There were tents, hand painted signs, almost child-like art work in poster paint reminiscent of the 60’s. Love. Peace.

I was politely greeted by several as I snapped pictures and looked around. I came upon a medical tent and was greeted by a young African-American man named Chris. I asked him a few questions and then asked his permission to record him as he gave me the grand tour. I really hadn’t expected to find a clean camp, let alone a medical tent – one of two!

There are supply rents with clothes, food and gloves. The port-a-pottys were at the far end of the park, away from the food area and they had hot food available all the time. 24 hours.

Chris told me about their “PA” system as a few people walked by shouting “Mic Check!” Chris explained that they use this system to make announcements around the camp. One makes the announcement and the others repeat the message around the encampment. An efficient system to say the least.

He also explained the Democratic Government they had established. To pass “legislation” requires 90% approval.

I spoke with a young woman who was in the Legal Tent. I didn’t ask her name or “qualifications” but she did tell me that the group applied for a permit 9 days ago and had heard nothing.

By biggest problem with this movement has been their disregard for the law. But it seems that they are at least making an effort to comply with the law and the City of Richmond is actually dragging their feet. I have no reason to believe this woman was not being truthful, which means that the City and local media has been less than candid about the Occupy Richmond group’s efforts to do things the right way.

Shame on Mayor Jones. While I criticized Jones earlier today in a post for not evicting the scofflaws who refuse to abide by the law and obtain the proper permits, it seems that the criticism of Jones was deserved, but not because he failed to remove this group who is unlawfully assembled, but because his administration has failed to either approve or disapprove the permit.

My camp guide Chris, speaking for himself (and not the group) said he believed that the Richmond TEA Party should be refunded their money. The Public Park is free.

As of yet, the group has only seemed to come up with one message. That is that they do not like the way things are going right now. Perhaps when and if they arrive at a 90% consensus on what it is that they want, there will be less confusion and misunderstanding of what they are doing.

I believe that the mainstream media has managed to ferret out the worst of the Occupy participants and what we have seen is not representative of the majority of the group. I believe Chris and the woman I spoke with were more a part of the core of the group.

For the ones I spoke with today, what they have found is a group of humans who feel pushed out of the society we live in today. The sense of community they are seeking no longer exists. It has been replaced by an everyone for themselves mentality. I think the reason that they have no real demands is that they have yet to realize that they are looking for a time I remember as a boy. When the entire neighborhood knew one another. Where you could never get away with anything because everyone knew your name and your parent’s phone number.

I believe that while those on the outside see a group of Communists or Socialists – I know I did – what they really are is Community-ists. They just don’t know it. Sure there are aspects of communes and I was having 60’s flashbacks during my visit. And I suppose that any good movement needs a villain. For the Hippies it was the Vietnam War and the Establishment. For the Occupiers, it seems to be banks. I am not sure how that actually fits the puzzle, but it seems to work as the catalyst that binds the Occupy Movement together.

Perhaps picking a bad weather day for my visit allowed me to see only the core – or heart – of the group as the camp was not very crowded in such nasty conditions. But the people I met today were not ACORN, SEIU or other unions, nor were they anti-Semites or Nazi’s. There were no drugs or alcohol and these people did not smell bad, although the cold weather may have had a positive effect on that, I don’t know.

Some were at work. That was not something I expected. They go to work and return there to sleep. Some go to school and return there at night.

But I will say that I walked away with a totally different perspective and point of view from when I walked in. I still don’t see a clear message or set of demands. But I also do not see a group of people who want to bring down America, either.

Now don’t worry. I will not be moving my tent to Kanawha Plaza and marching on the Bank of America tomorrow. But I will return again to investigate some more. I hope to attend an Assembly meeting and perhaps learn what exactly they are discussing.

For those looking for a sense of belonging who feel they are unable to find it in the mainstream community, they really seem to find a genuine sense of family and love here. Occupy Richmond may simply be an exceptional branch of the movement with others, like Wall Street, being the ugly side of the movement, who knows? New York is sure to attract a far more unsavory element than Richmond. Perhaps that is the difference.

But I now think that this is, at the very least, an interesting experiment. It is not the TEA Party. The two are totally different.

The TEA Party is a community looking for a specific list of items to be addressed. The Occupy Movements are a group searching for a sense of community. So far, at least. The two groups have little in common, but they also have little in opposition, either. They are not opposites in any way. Just two groups on the same path in pursuit of happiness.

About Tom White

Tom is a US Navy Veteran, owns an Insurance Agency and is currently an IT Manager for a Virginia Distributor. He has been published in American Thinker, currently writes for the Richmond Examiner as well as Virginia Right! Blog. Tom lives in Hanover County, Va and is involved in politics at every level and is a Recovering Republican who has finally had enough of the War on Conservatives in progress with the Leadership of the GOP on a National Level.

35 Responses to “Virginia Right! Blogger Visits Occupy Richmond and is Shocked by what he Finds”

  1. Martin M. McMartin says:

    While they may have applied for a permit (after their occupation), that alone does not allow them to proceed with their demonstration without it. Your claim that the city is dragging their feet is laughable. Should the city have considered their application ahead of everyone who has actually applied for permits in advance. The City, not OWS, is providing the port-a-pottys and increased police patrols at taxpayer expense. The idea that any public park is also a "free" campground is quite frankly asinine. What if I had applied well in advance and received a permit to hold an event at the plaza this weekend? Would you then support the City if they cleared these squatters out, by force if necessary?

    • Tom White says:

      MM – Some of the comments below say otherwise. The city has 5 days to decide on issuing a permit. It has been longer. It seems that the mayor is trying to appease everyone. The police have OK'ed them staying and camping. I truly see the group attempting to comply. I had set out to write the story of how this group was defying the law and were damaging the park. That is the story I went down there to write. But that is simply not the case. But on one hand, they have no permit. On the other, the police said it was OK.

      This will definitely change the rules of Kanawha Plaza as far as who can and who cannot hold events there, and who must pay for what.

      I am not in agreement with this occupy "thing" – mainly because I am not clear on what they want or expect to accomplish. They don't like the way things are going, and I share that sentiment. I believe going back to free markets and free trade and constitutionally limited government is the answer. I have read their Declaration… and I disagree with almost all of it. It is a left wing manifesto that echos the Communist and Socialist doctrine and enslaves citizens. (I am working on a post to address that – later today.) And perhaps 99% of the Occupy participants agree with it, but NOT 99% of America.

      And while we do not agree on philosophy, this story is not about their reasons for being there.

      It was simply a fact finding mission. And I did not find the reporting to date as far as their staying at the Plaza to be honest.

      They are not getting clear and precise decisions from the City. They are getting mixed signals. And until Mayor Jones either does his job or resigns, I do not believe they are at fault for camping in a park that prohibits overnight camping. Or pitching tents.

      The city is even sending out HEALTH INSPECTORS! Can you think of anything that better exemplifies the acquiescence of Mayor Jones administration? And the PASSED!

      I also expect that the TEA Party and any other group will be met with equal latitude and leniency as far as the money they will be expected to pay at the next Tax Day Rally. And any other group that decides to make a statement from here on out.

      And I really don't care what they are protesting. Taxation, too much government, or not enough big government. I fully support their right to protest within the confines of the law.

      Unfortunately, the bigger issue here is that Mayor Jones is selective about enforcement of the law. And the police cannot do anything about removal now because the group has permission. (See the comments below.)

      • Kirk Teeters says:

        Tom, thanks for being fair in your evaluation of the protest. It was quite refreshing to see that someone from the right would do such a fair-minded piece. And, like several other commenters, I feel that if you look at other sources you might find that the Occupy movement and the Tea-Party have certain things in common.
        I look forward to your post on the "…left wing manifesto that echos the Communist and Socialist doctrine and enslaves citizens." Particularly now that several comments have disavowed the manifesto that you linked to.

  2. Brad Bryant says:

    To those wondering about applying for a permit after the fact.

    During the planning phases there were communications with the police to make sure that everything was legal and above board. The first point of contact was with Sgt. Ward of the Special Events Unit of the Richmond Police Department. According to Sgt. Ward there were no such permits available for our event. We had no vendors, were not looking for outside security or medical personnel, did not need artificial amplification, and did not expect more than 300 people.

    One week before the start of the occupation, the point of contact became Captain Smith of the Special Events Unit of the Richmond Police Department. He was willing to issue special permits (ones specific to this event). He stated he was willing to allow the camping and other activities listed in the above article. He was the one that ordered the port-a-potties (as the movement was only planning on sawdust buckets with a pull curtain system until port-a-potty money materialized through participant donations) and trash removal (though the movement already had a sanitation committee, willing to bring in their own cans and making trips to proper dumping locations).

    It was not until the night before the protests began that Mayor Jones sent out the order to remove the permits from the table, and issued the order to break the movement as soon as anyone crossed a line.

    The first night was harsh and cold (much like the conditions tonight), but peaceful. There were no tents erected, nor were there laws violated.

    No tents were put up until visits to the city council and permit negotiations began again.

    So, if we are looking at it from a historical perspective, and not one based on opinion from the outside, the movement has tried to be respectful of the law from the beginning, with the legality lines and city position changing on a moment's notice.

    I cannot attest to every moment after the first weekend, as my health has not held out, but I can attest to the events leading up to the event, as I was the actual person on the phone with the police department from the beginning as the liaison representing the group.

  3. Bobbie Richards says:

    As a member of Occupy Richmond's Legal Team, I can attest to Brad's statement being true. Let me pick-up where he left off:

    On Monday, 10/17/2011 at 11:15 am John O'Kleasky Jr. Homeland Security and Special Operations Division of the RPD visited Kanawha Plaza along with Michael Snawder RPD. He introduced himself as our Point-of-Contact .A few suggestions were made by Officer O'Kleasky in regards to the sidewalk chalk, which we agreed to remove. He also complimented us on what a wonderful job we were doing keeping the park clean. Verbatim "This is the cleanest I have seen Kanawha Plaza in some time". After this exchange, Officer O'Kleasky told us that we would be allowed to pitch tents and tarps, but that there could be NO PERMANENT STRUCTURES. (I.E. wooden structures.) We were dubious, so asked him to reiterate his statement… and he did. We also have video footage of this exchange. That is the day the tents went up in the park.

    On Tuesday, 10/18/2011, Chief Norwood, Major Drew, and Officer Burtula from the RPD stopped by and asked us to take down the tents and tarps. When Chief Norwood was questioned as to why the tents should be removed when we had approval from Officer O'Kleasky to do so, he replied "there must have been a misunderstanding." That same day, Major Drew was made to be our NEW Point-of-Contact. A few hours later that same day Chief Norwood, Major Drew, Officer Burtula, Officer Tonya Vincent, and Gene Lepley from Public Affairs came down to the plaza and exchanged pleasant chit chat with us. Asked if there were any concerns over permitting issues and asked us to please stay in touch.

    Now, in regards to extra police officer's … we rarely see a police presence at Kanawha. The police force conducts their random patrols and that is the extent of it.

    • Martin M. McMartin says:

      "Now, in regards to extra police officer's … we rarely see a police presence at Kanawha. The police force conducts their random patrols and that is the extent of it."

      I guess the police made a rare visit last night, I am happy that the city finally decided to enforce the law and cleared the squatters out of the plaza.

  4. Bobbie Richards says:

    The Code that I originally stated in this video is incorrect. The code that I was referring to is SEC. 26-397(d) "The director of parks, recreation and community facilities may, by permit or other written authorization, allow the use of any site of the department of parks, recreation and community facilities at a time other than would ordinarily be allowed. " This is what the City Attorney is allegedly looking into.

    Thank you, Mr. White for your fair and unbiased journalism. It was a pleasure to meet you.

  5. Mannly Ballz says:

    Tom, yer a pussy. Ain't you ever heard of camping out? You must have a fuckin' bidet in yer water closet.

  6. Georgia says:

    Beyond the media hype you will find the same inner sense of respect and community at Occupy NYC. Maybe a visit there is now in order?

  7. purplefireweed says:

    Thank you for taking the time to check things out for yourself and report honestly. Pretty hard to characterize massive groups of people who come from many different perspectives, socioeconomic classes and ideologies. But your characterization of our being united by our love of communityism is spot on! THANK you for that new word, it really does describe the general feeling, though not the demands. Though the media continues to portray Occupy as directionless, that simply is not true. We are united by our desire to get Wall St. and D.C. out of bed with each other. This declaration is quite concise:… Hope you will attend a GA or two and report back what you observe. Many in this movement believe we have lots in common with those who identify with the TEA party. 99% is quite inclusive! Perfect we're not. Organic and willing to break new ground, we are. With this much discontent in our society–on the whole planet–isn't it wise to stop and figure out the root causes, then weed 'em out? We owe that to our children and other future generations.

  8. Kelly says:

    The U. S. Supreme Court has ruled that "[t]he right to walk the streets, or to meet publicly with one's friends for a noble purpose or for no purpose at all—and to do so whenever one pleases—is an integral component of life in a free and ordered society." Papachristou v. City of Jacksonville, 405 US 156, 164, 31 L. Ed. 2d 110, 92 S. Ct 839 (1972).

  9. Victoria says:

    The "99% Declaration" is NOT in ANY way approved by any Occupy movement. It was created by an individual without consensus. Here are 4 points of agreement ACTUALLY consensed upon by Occupy Richmond:

    Thank you so much for having an open mind w/r/t our movement. This was a really refreshing piece to read.

  10. saxmanphoto says:

    Hi Tom,

    I visited at the same time you did (I am in the background of your video) for much the same reason, and found the same things you did. My blog entry about it:

  11. Northern Neck says:

    Thanks for your reporting, your effort has been the most believable of all the stuff I have read on the internet so far, and believe me I have been researching this a lot for the last four days. But… while I always had a gut feeling that the core participants of the Occupy Movement, much the same as the TEA Party and in truth the hippies themselves, had honest and even admirable intentions their movements got corrupted, The hippies had peace and love then Woodstock then Altamont. They went from sharing their pot with everyone to selling individual joints (Simon and Garfunkel concert in NYC). It had music with meaning that morphed into disco. Peasant dresses into platform shoes and silk shirts. Natural hair to Farah Fawcett heads. The TEA Party was a true grass roots effort to stamp out big government and reduce spending and taxation, where is it now, blowing out there somewhere like a tumble weed, or preempted by the silver-tongued politicians it hated. Is the Occupy Movement the useful stooges for creating the political vacuum necessary for a human secular/European socialist/Soros victory? It is if many of the 99% Declaration grievances are adopted. I wish them well to fight the govt/corporation corruption, but I am afraid they are standing on a smaller foundation than the TEA Party and the hippie movement was. Our founding fathers relied on God quite a lot while forming this nation' government. I challenge someone to go to the Occupier's General Assembly at Richmond and call for an opening prayer in Jesus' name. Because only what's done for Christ will last. See whast reaction you get.

  12. jbentzr says:

    PS I do not represent the Occupy Movement in your city or elsewhere. But I support them 100 %. My opinions are my own. Thanks.

  13. Northern Neck says:

    You know jbentr, you call for a government for all people but yet you say all is well until I offered my opinion. My opinion is that a house built on a solid foundation will stand longer than one on shifting sand. Our founding fathers who set forth the ideals of our constitution, which you say you want to keep, would pray to our Creator whenever they came to an impasse. That is not establishing a state religion, that is simply seeking Divine guidance. Then you go on to belittle the author who went to great lengths to write an unbiased view by labeling him as an right wing nut job. Don't you consider it childish to call someone a name? You say you do not represent the Occupy Movement but yet you say "we believe…" You say "we" support the Constitution for the most part. Please read the 99% Declaration, if you haven't yet. It flies directly in the face against the concepts of the freedoms set forth in the in the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. I agree with you to keep Jesus in your heart, if the politicians had Jesus in their hearts then He would be active in our politics wouldn't He! Bigotry in the TEA Party. In any large group of people you can find some bad ones. I believe that bigotry in the TEA Party is more of a Left wing media wish than reality. I would venture to say there are some bigots in the Occupy Movement as well. Doesn't make the whole movement bigoted if there are some though.

  14. Jack Lee says:

    EXCELLENT WORK Mr. White, very impressive! Keep it up! This is a war or words!

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Tom White Says:

Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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