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Occupiers Protest Homeless Talks, Councilors Allocate $3.8 Million Surplus

By: Ruth Morton Email
By: Ruth Morton Email

November 19, 2012

Former members of Occupy Charlottesville spoke and others swore Monday night, resulting in the first person kicked out of City Council this year.

Former occupiers were outraged at council listening to a report on how to handle disorderly conduct on the mall.

After the meeting's public comment period, councilors began to discuss but activists interrupted them.

After public comment ended, two activists stood up. The second, Joseph Jordan, read a poem which repeated the phrase, "whitey's on the mall."

"I think you guys don't realize you're not doing yourselves any favors," councilor Dave Norris tried to interject.

"I think you had more sympathy up here than you thought," added councilor Kristin Szakos.

The mayor told Jordan to stop or he would have them removed. Charlottesville police officer Harvey Finkel walked him out of the meeting. Finkel said he thinks the last time he escorted someone out of a council meeting was atleast two years ago.

Staff told council its take on a report by a downtown neighborhood group that dealt with three thousand responses. Many people surveyed said they felt scared on the mall.

In public comment, occupiers and others spoke passionately, some cursing, saying that ideas to deal with complaints about vulgarities and harrassment on the downtown mall ignored mental, physical, and substance abuse issues of the homeless, instead listening to business owners' complaints.

"What I'm seeing is the 'Disney-fication' of a public space into a private space," said Nancy Carpenter, a public commenter, about the the report.

"I disrupted because they have no right to impose when the public has the right to speak," said Joseph Jordan, the man escorted out of city council. Jordan said he was reading deceased poet Gil Scott-Heron's poem, "Whitey on the Moon." He replaced "moon" with "mall."

"I was kind of happy to see it," said Lynn Wiber, a homeless advocate, of the interruptions to Monday night's meeting. "Everybody, when they hear the same things over and over again, they get kind of inured to it, and then they don't really act on it." Wiber spoke on behalf of the homeless during public comment portion.

Council also discussed the nearly four million dollar surplus. Council mostly agreed with staff's recommendations but added 50 thousand dollars for "workforce readiness." It put the bulk of the money, about three million dollars, into a contingency plan for capital projects.

Council will vote on the issue at its next meeting on December 3.

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