The Occupy movement continues to get beat like a nerd in dodgeball. Protesters in Toronto's St. James Park received eviction notices this week. Students at UC Davis got a taste of pepper-spray, resurrecting images of the bludgeon-fest by police at UC Berkley earlier this month. Even the first hub of Occupy activity, at New York's Zuccotti Park, was violently ousted last week.
Yet the Occupation drags on in the rural U.S. with nary a scuffle. Until Sunday night's eviction notice, Occupy Colorado Springs had only minor brush-ups with a heckler. Occupy Tucson has nurtured allies on the city council. The Alaska Dispatch quoted Fairbanks Mayor Jerry Cleworth recently saying he's "not losing any sleep" over protesters in tents.
These Occupations aren't appearing in YouTube videos depicting police baton practice. Local governments in places like Boise and Fairbanks have so far holstered the pepper-spray in favor of a much more effective tool: patience.
It's been about two months since the first tents bloomed outside Missoula's courthouse. County officials have had plenty of reason to boot the squatters, yet there they are, fewer in number but perhaps stronger in resolve, braving early winter to champion a cause whose message is at once revolutionary and confusing.
"It's a difficult position for the county," says chief financial officer Andrew Czorny. "We recognize their First Amendment rights to assemble, so we're trying to observe those as best we can and maintain communication with the Occupy movement."
Czorny isn't sure what the protesters are asking for, but he does know that their presence has jeopardized county workers. The Occupy encampment port-a-potties were removed in early November and the county noted feces and urine on the courthouse lawn shortly after. Staff had to be inoculated following their cleanup work, Czorny says. So the county supplied the protesters with a port-a-potty to ensure the safety of county workers.
Missoula County is aware that, through public complaints or additional Occupation mishaps, they may reach a tipping point with the protesters. But Czorny adds that they're watching the national news and learning that patience is probably key.
"The protesters would almost like to see the heavy hand used, to gain more media attention," he says. "We just don't want to give that to them."