London, who voted against the plan to leave Burnside Park but was warming up to it when we spoke, says it is vital that Occupy Providence find another space to continue its "24/7 living experiment" — a constant struggle to integrate women, minorities, and all manner of voices into a truly democratic space.

"We don't really know how to ask for real change and create real change if we aren't doing it within our own community," she says.

The long-term potential of these communities should not be underestimated: they could serve as training grounds for activists who might, eventually, warm to elective politics or the non-profit sphere.

But in the short run, it is hard to imagine them creating any sort of systemic change. Still, as Brown professor Self suggests, there may be some symbolic value in the effort.

In a society that feels broken — its economy, politics, and culture corrupt — a moral counterpoint is, if nothing else, good for the soul.

David Scharfenberg can be reached at

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