RENO — Having secured a 90-day permit, portable toilets, a $1 million insurance policy and the support of local government agencies, members of the Occupy Reno protest began cleaning the grounds of the Moana Swimming Pool on Friday afternoon in preparation for an indefinite stay at the shuttered Reno facility.
Felipe Miranda, 26, and a handful of others were seen sweeping up broken glass, pulling weeds, establishing a camp site and preparing to dig in for an extended occupation.
Unlike other Occupy movements that have spread from Wall Street, including forced evictions of protesters in Atlanta and Oakland, Calif., the Reno protest has proven effective in its organization and willingness to work with local authorities to ensure a peaceful, long-term solution.
Fire, police, public works, health department and other Reno officials visited the Moana site on Thursday to inspect the grounds, offer assistance and ultimately give their blessing to the location as a suitable place for protesters who want to make it their temporary home.
“I think city officials recognize they are part of the 99 percent,” said Laurel, 26, citing a phrase common among protestors. “They’re really listening to us.”
An educator in Reno who declined to give her last name, Laurel joined the movement about two weeks ago.
“I’ve seen how bad things have gotten,” she said. “We’re all struggling so much.”
Critics have labeled protesters associated with the Occupy movement as anti-capitalist, but Laurel doesn’t think this holds true.
“We’re not trying to take away anything,” she said. “We’re trying to make things better.”
Though the movement intentionally lacks hierarchical leadership and welcomes a broad swath of political beliefs, one issue that has crept to the fore is the staggering level of income inequality in the United States today.
For example, the 400 richest Americans have a combined larger net worth than the bottom 150 million Americans. The top 1 percent of Americans hold greater wealth than 90 percent of the rest. And from 2002 to 2007, 65 percent of economic gains went to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans.
Moreover, according to a recent study from the International Monetary Fund, income inequality inhibits social mobility, or the ability of individuals to move between economic classes, and also slows economic growth in the long-term.
To put it bluntly, income inequality is anti-capitalist.
Protesters have big plans for the Moana site, including building a geodesic dome for general assembly meetings, constructing a makeshift library, placing recycling bins around the property and establishing an education area. In addition, the movement plans to hold regular marches and rallies off-site to keep interest alive and attract newcomers.
Through donations and self-funding, the protesters were able to purchase portable toilets, a condition of the permit approved by the Reno City Council, as well as food, water and other basic necessities for those who intend to call the Moana site home.
Though the permit is good for only 90 days, protesters hope they will receive extensions when the time comes.
Whether Occupy Reno can make it through the winter and beyond remains to be seen, but if the protesters’ dedication is any sign, then they won’t leave until the change they seek begins to come around.
“We’re showing people there is another way,” Laurel said.