Occupy Delaware movement begins at Wilmington’s Fletcher Brown Park

Sunday 3pm update: Occupy Delaware is moving out of Fletcher Brown Park and taking their protest to a plaza in the heart of downtown Wilmington.

The group is moving to Peter Spencer Plaza.  That’s a city owned piece of land in the 800 Block of French Street.  It’s not far from state and federal court buildings and the Internal Revenue Service.  A spokesperson for the group said the location was chosen because the group wanted a visible location for its protest.  They plan an encampment there overnight.

That takes the burden of what to do about Occupy Delaware’s protests out of state hands and puts them into the city of Wilmington’s jurisdiction.  Governor Markell’s spokesman Brian Sealander said, “the state made a reasonable and respectful offer.  They chose not to accept it.”  DNREC reports that the group was good to its word about the way they would use Fletcher Brown Park.  They have all moved out before sundown and all signs of trash have been removed.

A group of about 15 protesters are at the Spencer Plaza with about an equal number of Wilmington city police.

The plaza is named in honor of Peter Spencer who was born a slave and became the founder of Delaware’s Independent Black Church movement.  The site is where his first church stood.  He also founded the August Black Quarterly, one of the earliest black folk festivals.

Sunday morning update: Occupy Delaware remained in H. Fletcher Brown Park in Wilmington Saturday night.  That violated a state order that there would be no camping overnight. 

Those in Occupy Delaware who began the Saturday protest took a late Saturday vote and decided to stay overnight, but leave Sunday. Leif Carney, one of the members of the group told Newsworks there were about 10-20 people who decided to stay and camp in protest.

The group was told by DNREC that there could be no camping overnight.  The group voted last night to stay anyway.  Governor Jack Markell’s chief of staff, Brian Sealander, said, “The state made the responsible offer of Brandywine Park to make sure the hundred kids in the daycare that use Fletcher Brown twice a day weren’t walking into the middle of an encampment.  That goal was accomplished. With their vote, the Occupy group appears to have given their word that they will be moved to their new location by sundown on Sunday. “

Carney said Occupy Delaware had convinced state officials the purpose of the protest was non-violent.  “We had a very productive meeting with city and state officials Friday.  I think a lot of their minds were put at ease,” he said.

Although Sealander added tonight is a different story. “They are violating their permit. Park rangers will continue to monitor the site and evaluate enforcement options.”

Mark Fowser’s Saturday report on the first arrival of Occupy Delaware: Supporters of a protest movement that began on Wall Street mingled with curiosity-seekers, dog-walkers and families enjoying the sunshine at a Wilmington park Saturday, as Occupy Delaware staked its claim.

Following a march on Rodney Square October 15th and several organizational meetings, members of the movement trickled into Fletcher Brown Park on the edge of Wilmington’s business district starting in the morning. Some began to pitch tents and brought sleeping bags in preparation for a stay of undetermined length.

Lori Huelsenbeck-Dill of Newark was not planning to spend the night, but came out with a sign reading “…because I want to live the American dream.” She heard about the gathering through one of her professors at Delaware Technical and Community College.

“There are a lot of people in the United States who are going hungry, who don’t have a lot and live paycheck-to-paycheck. And, there’s a very small few who hold all of the money,” Huelsenbeck-Dill said.

She added that she is not sure what the solution is, but believes the movement is a step in the right direction. “I have a young son, and I’d like to see his life be better than what I have,” Huelsenbeck-Dill said.

“The economic disparity in this country has created a situation where the common person is really just struggling to get by,” Brian Collins of Newark said. Collins added he believes that the Occupy movement’s main goals are to limit the influence of corporations and businesses in government and to have a jobs bill passed in Washington.

Norris Cramer of Wilmington came out with the intention of spending the night with Occupy Delaware. He said he finds Occupy Delaware appealing due to it being “a-political” and diverse “And, it’s a peaceful movement,” Cramer said, adding that he got upset when banks started raising their fees.

Meanwhile, grad student Steve Fox of Newark, who also works part-time, said he was impressed by the Occupy movement’s use of “direct democracy to guide the demonstrations.”

“Basically, what we’re doing is occupying the very streets we live in,” Fox added.

Although the group settled on Fletcher Brown Park, they are only officially allowed to stay there Saturday and Sunday during daylight hours. The State of Delaware agreed to waive permits and allow Occupy Delaware to set up at nearby Brandywine Park, due to a nearby day care center which uses Fletcher Brown Park during the week. Members of the group were scheduled to vote late Saturday on whether to move to the other park or stay put and risk being evicted.

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