“Occupy Wall Street - A teepee grows in Oakland; As camps are raided and evicted elsewhere, the city's movement builds a symbol -- and searches for purpose”
by Chris Colin [http://www.salon.com/2011/11/30/a_teepee_grows_in_oakland/singleton/]
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“Every time we say the police aren’t going to do something dumb, they surprise us,” Becca Von Behren told me in the hours before the vigil.
Von Behren, 30, is an attorney with a San Francisco veterans rights group and part of Occupy Oakland’s volunteer legal committee. There's no clearer picture of a 99 percenter than a veteran my age, she told me. Over the last few days Von Behren was instrumental in helping to devise the legally savvy underpinning of the day's planned vigil. The idea rested on precedent from a 1984 case called Clark v. Community for Creative Nonviolence. As she and another attorney from the committee explained it to me, that case established that elements of a protest designed for expression were protected by the First Amendment — even tents and teepees, if they're used as symbols rather than for sleeping.
“Sleeping is not protected — they can ban that,” Von Behren said. “We'll have a permanent and meaningful structure in the plaza, but nobody will be sleeping in it.”
I asked her what the meaning was. Specifically, I asked her how I should explain it to my mom, a proxy in my mind for everyone with growing sympathy for the movement and growing doubts about its tactics.
“Here's what I said to my mom,” Von Behren said. “Regardless of whether measurable changes occur — and I'm not even sure what the metric would be — there are people out here involved in direct, deliberative democracy, discussing things usually not discussed among strangers. That kind of awakening is enough.”
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