Despite the recent abandonment of the Occupy Murfreesboro encampment and inner squabbles among various participants, several protesters said Tuesday the group plans to remain active in the future.
“We’re not done,” said Rachel Davies, a junior at MTSU majoring in biochemistry. “There are several projects in the works, and we plan to come back stronger than ever.”
Davies said Occupy Murfreesboro members decided to voluntarily break down the encampment over the weekend, following a general assembly meeting Friday.
“We’re not trying to fight with the City of Murfreesboro,” she said. “So, we are discussing how best to occupy without making city leaders so upset.”
Others acknowledged that maintaining the encampment gradually became more difficult because of the holidays, in addition to the fact many Occupy Murfreesboro members are MTSU students.
“We have lost a lot of people due to various factors,” said Scott Martindale, an MTSU maintenance worker. “Given the circumstances, we decided it was best to spend this time reassessing how effective our current method has been this past month. We wanted to refocus on defining our goals as a movement.”
Both Martindale and Davies also noted that members faced their first in-house hurdle – learning how to effectively manage the group’s message and operations because it functions as a leaderless movement that comprises multiple political perspectives.
“The reason I didn’t participate in the encampment is because the goals remained unclear at the time,” said Connor Moss, who is no longer actively involved with Occupy Murfreesboro.
“However, the Occupy movement consists of numerous viewpoints, and although some people may disagree at times, I do think activity will pick up once again when the weather is warmer,” said Moss, who graduated in December from MTSU with a bachelor’s degree in political science.
In December, some current and former Occupy Murfreesboro members distanced themselves from the Rutherford County Democratic Party’s endorsement, reiterating the group’s initial stance that the movement was nonpartisan.
“I have always maintained that Occupy Murfreesboro (protesters) should remain free from partisan politics because many of their concerns are similar to groups like the Tea Party,” Moss said.
During an interview last month, MTSU student Jase Short said he personally believed local Democrats should have remained impartial to the movement because the endorsement only solidified the notion that political parties are primarily concerned with gaining more power.
“What is important for Occupy Murfreesboro is continued opposition to the two-party system’s hold on political power, here and across the nation,” said Short, a member of Solidarity, a socialist student-run organization. “Wall Street has one party with two faces: the Democrats and Republicans alike.”
However, several fellow protesters quickly pushed back against those who publicly criticized the Democrats’ involvement, arguing they believed the support was a positive development for the movement.
“I didn’t see a problem with it,” Davies said, noting she has usually voted for Democratic candidates in the past, “but that doesn’t mean Occupy Murfreesboro is entirely aligned with the Democratic Party.”
Although some well-known Democrats, including Executive Committee member Joan Hill, have joined the Occupy Murfreesboro movement, Davies said she believes they are involved as individuals – not as representatives of the local Democratic Party.
Hill, who is an attorney and education representative for United Steelworkers International in Nashville, sponsored the resolution endorsing Occupy Murfreesboro.
“Activism for a particular movement can be separated from a political party,” Davies said.
Even though Martindale said he had no problems with the Democrats’ endorsement, he understands why some protesters were quick to disapprove of the party’s support.
“There is a fear the Democrats would co-opt us like the Tea Party,” he said, adding no one from the Democratic Party has attempted to takeover the movement.
Moss said political participation is time consuming, and it requires long hours of tedious work. He said, however, any inner squabbles are a normal part of the process.
“This is what democracy looks like – it isn’t pretty,” Moss said. “Everyone knows what they want, and people within the Occupy (Murfreesboro movement) are in the process of ironing out those differences.”