The Importance of Holding Occupy Camps

11/02/2011 03:41 pm ET | Updated Jan 02, 2012

Occupy camps around the country have been making news lately mostly because of police brutality and extreme tactics being deployed to evict protestors. It's happened in Oakland, Denver, Chicago and New York, to name just a few places. But there are a number of other Occupy camps facing their own problems with local officials; they just haven't risen to the level of cops in riot gear launching tear gas yet.

Last week, Netroots Nation decided to take a stand for Occupy Providence. Mayor Angel Taveras and his administration aren't opposed to the camp or its goals -- in fact, he has marched with protestors -- but his administration feels there are legitimate public health and safety concerns. Nonetheless, they issued an eviction notice for the camp.

We launched a petition to encourage Mayor Taveras to exhibit leadership by treating the protestors' right to free speech and assembly with respect, thereby serving as an example to other cities. You can add your name to that petition here.

We felt it was important to take a stand here because what these camps have collectively accomplished is to change the narrative nationally. Instead of being bogged down in discussions of our debt and whether we should cut entitlement programs by a lot or just a little, we're talking about real problems facing America: jobs, unemployment, economic inequality. It'd be incredibly easy to imagine a different scenario where we were again talking about debt given that the Super Committee process in Congress is ramping up.

If we stand aside or look the other way simply because a mayor's administration isn't deploying cops in riot gear to evict the protestors, then we're harming the long-term future of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Because of action taken by our members, we're making an impact in Providence. The city's deadline for eviction came and went this past Sunday. No armed cops were deployed in the dark of night to round up protestors. Instead, Mayor Taveras made the following statement last Saturday:

[T]he city will will NOT follow the actions of other cities like Atlanta, Chicago or Oakland that have resulted in arrests and violence. Instead, the Courts will consider the merits of this issue over the next few weeks.

We commend Mayor Taveras for his reasonable and rational approach and hope it serves as an example for other cities on how to work with the Occupy Wall Street movement. Yesterday, the AP reported that the City of Providence is reviewing its legal options and that Occupy Providence is working with a lawyer to fight for their first amendment rights in court.

Please add your name to the petition here.