Occupy Providence has only just begun to sink its roots into the dusty turf of Burnside Park. But already, there is talk of what comes next.
Mayor Angel Taveras's administration, if accommodating, has made it clear the protesters can't stay indefinitely. And a figure even more powerful than Hizzoner looms in the near distance: Old Man Winter.
The majority sentiment among occupiers, it seems, is to stand firm. Indeed, on the afternoon of October 24 a band of protesters held a press conference, with Taveras on hand to observe, declaring their right to assemble — then marched on City Hall to deliver an oversized letter claiming as much.
After the group made its noisy exit, I sat with occupier Jay Wills, 27, a Seattle transplant who leans toward warmer alternatives. "With the winter coming up, we need options," he said. "This place can be a little brutal."
Charting the future of Occupy Providence, whatever that might be, is the idea behind Occu-Stock — a three-day "masquerade music festival" and fundraiser planned for India Point Park from 4-11 pm on the evenings of October 28-30.
Wills, a musician with hip-hop/rock/pop collective Malleable Destiny Multimedia Alliance (MDMA), is organizing the event with Brown University students Matt Weisberg and Sarah Grimm. He says city officials have assured him permitting will be expedited and fees waived.
The call for bands has spread across the state, up into Massachusetts, and down to New York City. As the Phoenix went to press, Occu-Stock had confirmed performances by mostly local artists like Nico Jaar, the Universes, and Last Good Tooth. Big Nazo — the giant, bizarro puppet troupe — should be there, too, Weisberg says.
And all revelers will be welcome — even the bigwigs at the banks Occupy Providence has been protesting in recent days. "They're welcome to throw on a mask and a costume and come dance with us," Wills says.
But Occu-Stock will be more than masked mirth, he says. There will be speakers. There will be workshops. There will be discussion groups on where Occupy Providence should go from here. And while admission will be free, organizers will ask for contributions to fund the movement's next step.
Wills says Occupy, which has made heavy use of donations from sympathizers, needs to take a step toward greater self-sufficiency.
Of course, pushing a leaderless, inchoate organization in any definitive direction is a difficult enterprise. Indeed, Occu-Stock itself has the feel of the improvised, the thrown-together.
When I met with Jay, just four days before the festival was to launch, the organizers were still looking for local business sponsors; they still needed to line-up Port-a-Johns; they were still nailing down performers.
But Occupy Providence, if nothing else, has shown itself a resourceful group.