Occupy Lexington to decentralize, continue protest downtown

jhewlett@herald-leader.comJanuary 25, 2012 

Occupy Lexington protesters voted Wednesday night to "decentralize," but that doesn't mean occupiers are giving up on the corner of East Main Street and Esplanade downtown as a place to protest.

Under the decentralization plan, members would participate in a network of "affinity groups," which would have their own projects and goals, each operating according to the core values of Occupy Lexington, occupiers said.

The first affinity group — a group that would continue protesting at the corner of East Main Street and Esplanade — was formed at Wednesday's meeting, which drew more than a dozen protesters.

"As of now, we intend to hold the corner indefinitely," said protester Ian Epperson.

Lexington police, finding the site unoccupied on Tuesday, began removing the protesters' tents, chairs, tables and other items from the corner. A local ordinance prohibits the blocking of sidewalks, and there has been a problem in that regard from time to time, Susan Straub, spokeswoman for Mayor Jim Gray, said on Tuesday.

"We're going to obviously obey the city statutes," said protester Austin Parker.

Occupy Lexington has protested at the corner of East Main Street and Esplanade for well over 100 days.

There were no tents, chairs and tables on the corner Wednesday night, just protesters with signs and a couple of large containers of coffee accompanied by paper cups to help them endure the frigid temperatures.

Under a decentralized Occupy Lexington, the public might begin to see protesters at other locations, including in front of city hall and various businesses, according to occupiers. Some affinity groups might choose to get their message across in other ways. Plans are for the affinity groups to collaborate and communicate in Occupy Lexington "general assembly" meetings on a regular basis.

Decentralization details are still being worked out, Epperson said.

Occupy Lexington is the local version of the Occupy Wall Street movement that began in New York and spread to other cities. The governments of some large cities have forced occupier sites to close, which has led to skirmishes between protesters and police.

Reach Jennifer Hewlett at (859) 231-3308 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3308.

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