What remains of the Occupy Indy
protest just 22 days after about 1,000 protestors gathered at Veterans Memorial Plaza
Plazais dramatically smaller. As late as two weeks ago, hundreds marched
around Monument Circle shouting, "Banks got bailed out. We got sold out."
Now, the group occupying the
space it has named "Liberty Lawn" will spread its purpose by shaking
the hands of a few people who pass by and handing out fliers on the streets.
"If we keep this up and
stay united like we have been, I know we can win this and we will," said
Tasha Ernstes, who has been at Occupy Indy for three
Like many members of the
protest, Ernstes said she still feels passionate
about opposing the economic inequalities and influence of corporations in
politics — two of the key threads running through an organization
inclusive of ideas that don't always fit a smooth narrative.
"We don't have one
goal," said Debra Moore, who has made multiple trips from her home in
Akron, Ind., to the protest. "We don't have one leader. We have all of the
issues that are wrong with America today, but we don't have just one person to
stand in front of us and say it."
If one person has stood out
it's James Kerner. He became the first arrested in
the protest Thursday on charges of trespassing after an umbrella he was holding
was deemed a hazard to a fire exit on the south side of the statehouse. Ernstes said Kerner returned to
the protest Saturday night for the first time since his arrest.
For several members of the
fledgling group, the arrest offered an opportunity to ignite interest in what
some see as growing apathy toward the cause.
"This is going to help us
build our numbers," Brandon Jones said Thursday. "People are starting
to believe this is just a joke."
On Sunday, however, it was
apparent little had changed. The same umbrella Kerner
held provided shade for the group on a sunny day and numbers were still low.
But each addition to the protest offers inspiration.
"We have a lot of the same
faces," Ernstes said. "But we have some new
faces every day. Some just pass through. Some end up staying. It's very
enlightening and very encouraging to see new people who don't really know about
the occupation and when they find out about it and they find out what we are
doing and our cause they sit down and actually help support us."
As the 24-hour,
seven-day-a-week protest goes on, Ernstes said other
commitments keep more protestors from gathering near the statehouse. Still, she
said many join the occupation via the group's live stream — a sporadic
online broadcast of events happening on "Liberty Lawn."
For Occupy Indy, the statehouse
poses both problems and opportunity. Jones said the inability to put up tents
or other shelter hampers the ability to maintain the group's presence. But Ernstes said it's important to stay put.
"Being on the statehouse
lawn makes a major point," she said. "It makes a much bigger point
than if we were sitting in a park occupying. We are on statehouse and (the
government) can't touch us."
To go to the bathroom, Ernstes said she travels to the Circle Centre Mall. Other
group members said they are often invited to nearby homes to take showers.
Jones serves as the group's chef, cooking anything from soup to Ramen noodles
on a hotplate powered by a generator.
Cool temperatures and strong
October winds are a constant reminder of the threat weather will pose as winter
arrives. Among the six members in attendance on Sunday, there were mixed
feelings about where Occupy Indy should be when the snow arrives.
"If needed, we can
move," Ernstes said. "But we have to
(discuss) what the group wants to do. This isn't just about one person."
"If we do shut down for
the winter," said Stefan Ludlow, a junior at Butler University. "We
will back in the spring in full force."
The group is most easily
identified at its daily general assembly, a 7 p.m. meeting that has been a
venue for making decisions and discussing the group's progress since its
inception. Ernstes said the gathering still attracts
those with less time to spend near the statehouse and a slow stream of
donations to keep the movement alive.
Ernstes said her belief in a bright future for Occupy Indy is the
strongest reason she remains.
"We are only four weeks
strong," she said. "But we are getting stronger every second. Every single
person that sits down and supports us, that's one more person to help prove our
point — to help support us."