Drain Problems At Occupy Charlotte Location?
12:00 pm
Tue January 31, 2012

Drain Problems At Occupy Charlotte Location?

Hazmat specialists taking samples from the drain. Photo: Julie Rose

Now that police have removed Occupy Charlotte's tents from the lawn of Old City Hall, a new clean-up may be underway.

The dozens of Occupiers who camped out at Old City Hall these last three months weren't allowed to have a port-a-potty. The closest public bathroom designated for their use was a block away at the court house.

This morning, a hazardous materials unit from the Charlotte Fire Department was investigating the possibility that Occupiers may have used a storm drain on the lawn of Old City Hall as a restroom.

Deputy Charlotte Fire Chief Jeff Dulin says CMPD notified his office of the possible contamination after clearing the protest site of tents.

The drain is about one foot by two feet and leads directly to Little Sugar Creek.

The drain with its protective grate removed. Photo: Julie Rose

Several hazmat specialists wearing rubber gloves removed the grate on the drain and gingerly scooped out sludge. Dulin says the results of the tests will help determine if indeed anything foul went down the drain and if there's anything the city can do to prevent further contamination.

A couple of Occupy Charlotte protesters who've been at the camp since it began in early October say the group discouraged anyone from putting stuff down the drain.

"For exactly this reason," says Occupier Eric Dow. "Media just runs to bad news and everybody gets labeled as doing this even though it's probably just one person - if that - we don't even know. Out of 50 people, one person might be doing that and we all get labeled as such."

Occupy Charlotte has always struggled with that dynamic. Differences of opinion split the protesters into factions early on. More recently the group tried to distance itself from a few campers who burned an American flag at the protest site.

Dow says people who were not invested in the political message of the Occupy Wall Street movement routinely joined the camp.

"We had some that would literally be walking out of jail and would stop and not know anything about us and just stay here," says Dow.

Making sure everyone knows what Occupy Charlotte stands for is an even larger focus of the group since police forced its tent-city to disband.

The new city ordinance does allow Occupy Charlotte to maintain an information booth at Old City Hall. Protesters say they'll take shifts to maintain a permanent presence.

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