By Kirsten Adshead | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON — Occupy Madison participant Lyle Siebert Jr. said it himself.
“For me, it’s not a political thing,” said Siebert, who has been encamped at the Madison Occupy site on East Washington Avenue since losing his job and home this past winter. “I came down here out of necessity. I can think of better places to be, but I can think of worse.”
In one sense, the encampment has become exactly what its critics had feared: a highly visible eyesore for the homeless to gather, pitch tents and, in a few instances, cause trouble.
For others, however, the gathering of a large number of the homeless alongside one of Madison’s main thoroughfares is a highly visible example of what the Occupy movement represents: These people are the 99 percent who, Occupiers say, are being rejected and overrun by the 1 percent of the world’s people who control the money and power.
“When I first got involved with this, I thought too much effort was being spent on the site and not enough on political (efforts),” said Allen Barkoff, who helps with the Occupy Madison effort but does not stay in the encampment.
But, Barkoff said, “homelessness is visible evidence of the inequalities in society. They (homelessness and the Occupy movement) are inextricably linked.”
Their futures might be, too.
Barkoff was at the encampment Thursday afternoon when a group of officials from the city, including representatives from Mayor Paul Soglin’s office and the police department, arrived.
The relationship between the City of Madison and the Occupy movement has been mostly cordial.
But there are tensions, too.
The Occupiers want the city to allow them to relocate the camp, a request that has thus far been denied.
City officials asked Barkoff and others to begin distributing notices to the 50 or so occupants of the encampment, indicating that camping will not be allowed as of April 30 and that “All tents, gear, equipment, structures, vehicles, possessions must be removed. Any items remaining on this site after 12 noon April 30 will be considered abandoned.”
“The city is not going to provide another site,” said Sally Miley, Soglin’s assistant.
Siebert spoke while staying warm next to a heater, which, residents said, they were told not to use two days ago due to a temporary city ban on outdoor fires.
As the residents of the Occupy Madison camp ponder their future, so do leaders of the Occupy Madison movement.
They have scheduled an all-day workshop Saturday at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The workshop includes training on nonviolent civil resistance, fighting against the foreclosure crisis and staying safe in mass street protests.
A message posted on the Occupy Madison Direct Action Committee’s Facebook page reads: “When the spectacle of the 2012 elections is over … when fundamental economic and social problems remain unresolved, and when the weak economy takes another nose-dive … we can expect further outpourings of popular protest and challenges to the rule of the 1%. Therefore now is the time for advocates of the 99% to re-group, reflect, and prepare.”
Asked whether Occupy Madison has accomplished goal, Siebert asked, “What’s the goal?”