On Sunday, at 2 p.m. in the Bemis Public Library, five people gathered to launch the first general assembly of Occupy Littleton. If the idea that democracy takes time ever needed proof, this would be it. One person shy of a round half-dozen, the group appeared dwarfed in the city library's largest meeting room as it met to discuss its affiliation with Occupy Denver, its plans for the future and what it actually means to occupy Littleton, Colorado.
"Littleton isn't known for being a hotbed of radicalism," supporter Claire Hanley said at the outset of the meeting. "It's just not. People, when they think of Littleton, think white, affluent Republicans, and we want to make people rethink the whole Occupy thing by applying it to even small spaces."
With that in mind, the meeting focused on baby steps. At this writing, the newest Colorado chapter of the national movement is still shy one fan from having 250 likes on Facebook, which, compared to the almost 27,000 online backers of Occupy Denver, is chump change. (Even Parents For Occupy Denver has more than 500.) The group is not yet anywhere close to maintaining 24/7 occupation, though its Facebook page promises, rather ominously, "Rest assured children, we will. Oh...Yes...We will."
Today, Occupy Denver's first GA is a minor moment of lore, though it was also sparsely attended: Supporters gathered on the state property of Lincoln Park, and when a state trooper warned they would have to leave, half of the group decided to obey while the other half remained defiant. The compromise: The entire group moved their circle over so that the first half could sit off the official park property while the rest sat firmly on the grass.
Bemis Public Library.
Occupy Littleton follows the same pattern of compromise, though with less immediate ambition. According to the supporters present -- and there are many more who didn't attend -- the group began as a way for the Littleton community to become involved without traveling to or specifically focusing on Denver. They see promise in the efficiency of their smaller size and hope to promote Littleton-specific goals while working inside of the larger Occupy Colorado network. As part of its to-do list, the group plans to promote anti-corporate personhood legislation inside Littleton, fight foreclosures and investigate which banks hold the city's money.
"I thought that if I wanted to be a part of the democratic action, others would, too, even if Denver isn't always an option," says Eric Rothermel, a stay-at-home dad with limited weekly availability for protests. "Let's give those people their own way of getting involved on a smaller scale. The great thing about the Occupy movement is that you don't ask for permission. You just do it and go."
Right now, the group does have permission to use the library for at least three more weeks, though the protesters plan to move outside when the weather improves. In order to produce a statement of purpose, the logical first step, organizers had first to decide how to define the group's relationship with Occupy Denver. "Are we autonomous?" Rothermel asked. "A satellite of Denver?" This comes with several issues to consider: The larger occupation provides support and structure, but it has also received negative attention in recent weeks when protesters set the encampment on fire and interrupted a vigil for the homeless.
After weighing these issues, the group voted unanimously, via raised hands, to cement ties with Occupy Denver while establishing itself on the fringes of its neighbor. Occupy Littleton is still so small that the Occupy Wall Street system of the people's mic is unnecessary, and conversations are easy to hear, if slow. "How did Occupy Wall Street start?" Hanley asked the group before confirming its presence. "Maybe not as small as us, but still small."
The group's second GA will take place at the same time and venue on Sunday, January 22, which means this week includes an extensive amount of homework for the small occupation. First up, the group must create a mission statement in order to clarify its purpose. During the first session, Hanley used a white Mac laptop to Google the statements of neighboring occupations -- Erie, Fort Collins, Longmont, even Legoland -- and kept the aspects the group liked. Before its next meeting, those involved will decide on the best way to piece these together.
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"There's a lot of reference to revolution, but I keep telling people to just drop the R," Rothermel says. "A lot of that language seems to scare away people who might be on the fence."
More from our Occupy Denver archive: "Occupy Denver: Mayor Michael Hancock says public doesn't care anymore."