Occupy Richmond has a new home: Right next door to the mayor's house, on his neighbor's front lawn.
Protesters moved in Tuesday, pitching tents and hauling in supplies just a driveway over from Richmond, Va. Mayor Dwight C. Jones' private residence, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.
The group had threatened to move in to the mayor's neighborhood if he didn't allow them permits to camp in public parks. They had previously set up an encampment in Kanawha Plaza in downtown Richmond before police broke it up Oct. 31.
When Jones reportedly missed a Monday deadline to respond to their demands, Occupy Richmond took Jones' neighbor Raymond H. Boone up on an offer to make camp on his four-acre property.
Boone, the publisher of the Richmond Free Press, has been supportive of the Occupy Wall Street movement and first offered Occupy Richmond space, food and water in an editorial last week after they were blocked again from camping in a park.
After the group started setting up Tuesday, one protester estimated about 50 people would be spending the night.
Police Chief Bryan T. Norwood said it doesn't look like the encampment is in violation of any state laws or city ordinances, though he told the Times-Dispatch: "There are some zoning issues that we're going to take a look at to try to refine and make sure that everybody's in compliance."
Norwood said he would try to keep a police presence in the neighborhood for as long as the protesters stay -- something that appears to be of small comfort to other neighbors in the area, who aren't taking as kindly to hosting the protesters in their community.
The Times-Dispatch reported:
Amelia Lightner, president of the Brookbury neighborhood association, said some residents viewed the occupation as a safety threat. She said the association represents about 150 homes and will hold a meeting Thursday to discuss the situation.
"Would you want them to invade your community and cause congestion in your community?" Lightner said. "This community's not accustomed to a constant flow of people in and out, not knowing who they are."
After she and another concerned neighbor, Ray Graham, finished speaking to reporters, two of the demonstrators approached and introduced themselves to Lightner and Graham, making for an awkward exchange.
"How are you today?" asked Jon Lefleor. "I just want to come and say hello and see how you all are doing."
Graham replied that he pays a mortgage for a nice house in the neighborhood and doesn't want anybody invading his space.
"I can completely respect that," Lefleor said, "and I hope that I don't infringe upon anybody's space."
"Just for the record," Graham shot back, "you are."
Boone downplayed concerns about the protesters' presence and said he invited them so they could exercise their First Amendment rights.
"The people are not walking around in the neighborhood -- they're on my property," he said.
He told CBS affiliate WTVR-TV that having Occupy Richmond so close by would give Jones "an opportunity to say where he really stands. Whether he stands with corporate, or whether he stands with the people who elected him."
Boone and his wife, Jean, welcomed the group to the neighborhood Tuesday and called them modern-day heroes.
"I know, Dwight… he is a wonderful person who has not shared with me why he’s taking the stance that he is," Jean Boone said, who admitted to being unaware of her husband's offer until she read about it in the paper. "But he is a man of the cloth, so I have to believe that his heart is in the right place."