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Santa Fe Occupies the Railyard

By Matthew Reichbach

The Occupy Santa Fe members are settled in at the Railyard Park near Cerrillos Road and next to the train tracks that carry riders from Albuquerque to Santa Fe. Nearly two dozen tents dot the Railyard Park around a circular grass field. No tents, the rules at the north end of the encampment say, can be erected on the grass.

On the grass, a family plays soccer while others gather in groups. Some gather near a fire pit that puts off more smoke than heat as the wood burns down, discussing what role the banks had in the economic downturn that still envelops the country. A young man walks around, offering the last piece of pizza (green chile pizza) to anyone before he can dispose of the box in the “cardboard” recycle bin located near the kitchen tent.

Some of the tents are big enough to house a family, others barely big enough for a man to sleep in. All signal that some protesters are willing to stay as long as they believe necessary to get the word out.

There is a sense of permanence and rhythm to the camp that comes from the protesters camping together.

The group is organized; Judy Welte sends out emails to a list with some articles to read that would be relevant to the movement (which includes at least one Clearly New Mexico piece).

The difference between Occupy Santa Fe and (Un)Occupy Albuquerque is immediately evident. While the Albuquerque part of the worldwide Occupy movement has spent nearly a week fighting for its right to demonstrate at the University of New Meixco, the Santa Fe branch of the movement secured a permanent home at Railyard Park.

The Albuquerque protesters were told that they can use city parks, but only during regular park hours.

Other efforts at outreach

One similarity between the Tea Party movement that has had a massive effect on politics, especially within the Republican Party, and the Occupy movement is a distrust of the traditional and mainstream media. With the rise of the internet, however, the movements can bypass the traditional media gatekeepers and get the news out on their own.

One example is what Welte is doing with her regular emails pointing out news that may be relevant to the cause. The Occupy Santa Fe movement also posts all of their meetings’ minutes on its website, OccupySantaFeNM.org. A Twitter account, @OccupySantaFe, and Occupy Santa Fe Facebook page are also set up to get the word out.

Welte told Clearly New Mexico that before getting involved in the movement, she had never used Facebook. Now the Occupy Santa Fe Facebook page has nearly 3,000 “likes” — a little more than their counterparts in Albuquerque.

Brad Laughlin is doing his own thing to get the word out. As the executive director of Corelight, a “spiritually-based non-profit” based in Santa Fe, he is providing a camera and microphone to let the protesters tell their own stories to the world.

“We want to just hear from people, hear why they’re here, learn from people, what they’re thinking and feeling and why they came,” Laughlin told Clearly New Mexico. Laughlin says that they will be putting the videos up on YouTube.

“We’re really just trying to document people’s authentic experiences and what’s happened to them,” Laughlin said.

He says that the Occupy movement is “shockingly underrepresented” and is doing a bad job of “taking in what is actually happening.”

Different vibe than Albuquerque

While their counterparts in Albuquerque held a mock funeral for the 1st amendment, targeted at the University of New Mexico brass that kicked the protesters out of Yale Park last week, the Santa Fe branch protested in front of a Bank of America branch.

The response in Albuquerque is angrier, more set-upon and with reason. More than three dozen protesters were arrested when they refused to leave Yale Park last Tuesday night. Police with riot gear stood in the park, feet away from hundreds on the sidewalk and in the (closed-off) street into the early hours of Wednesday.

Meanwhile, members of the Santa Fe movement spoke in a way that no member of the (Un)Occupy Albuquerque protesters would have. From the Santa Fe New Mexican:

Many of the Occupy participants praised the Santa Fe Police Department’s handling of the movement. Judith Lawson, who is handling media functions for the group, acknowledged there was a slight “kerfuffle” between some youth participants and the police regarding the right to carry a banner on Guadalupe Street during the march Saturday. But she said police are “cool-headed and smart.

“We know that police all over the U.S. are closely observing what happened in Oakland, Atlanta and other cities where there were (Occupy) confrontations,” Lawson said. “Our intention is to keep a very high standard with the Santa Fe police, our mayor and other officials. We have no intention of setting up a situation that would cause the police to confront us in a violent way.”

One thing that both groups have in common is the criticism of the banks and signs referring to the 99 percent.

Odds and Ends

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