LOUISVILLE — Political activity has slowed and food donations have declined, but nearly 20 protesters remain camped at the home base for the Occupy Louisville protest.
Despite a dwindling presence at a downtown park at Fifth Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard, the occupation in its fifth month still has meaning for many of the remaining protestors.
"I was never political. Now I have a voice," David Barfield, a 52-year-old former telemarketer and waiter told The Courier-Journal. "I used to think nothing could change; now I feel it can. People need to see us here."
The camp, with 18 plywood-floor tents and a few picnic tables has also become a destination for some chronically or temporarily homeless people. Some of them are drawn by political advocacy, others by the electricity, donated food and warm tents.
Barfield is homeless himself and acknowledges that most of the remaining Occupy campers are as well.
But Occupy Louisville campers bristle at the idea that being homeless makes them illegitimate activists. They are proud of being on-site representatives of a local movement.
"We need a physical presence. It's the only everyday direct action there is. Some of us have a place we could go," such as relatives' homes, said camper Curtis Huffines, 42, who became homeless last year.
In Louisville, fears that officials would move to evict them led the group to seek a legal injunction that landed in federal court. But that was put on hold after the city recently granted a camping permit for up to 70 protesters through March 31. It required the group to put up $500 for electricity at the site.
Some members of the Louisville occupy movement have stopped staying overnight but continue to push for political change. Many group members meet weekly at the downtown library for a "general assembly" — where discussions range from upcoming protests to camp logistics.
Some members are questioning whether it's necessary to maintain a full-time camp.
"When it started, it was a 24/7 movement (but) when they realized there's nothing you can do overnight about how to run society on a grand scale, a lot of them went home," said Occupy member Robin Cook, a 38-year-old coordinator at University of Louisville's Kent School of Social Work who lives in Germantown.
"If there were more people making that statement by living there, I'd be a thousand percent behind the camp," Cook said. But "I don't see losing the camp as a danger to the movement."