Occupy protesters vacate Las Vegas camp

The tents are gone. So are the portable toilets.

The tiny parking lot tucked away on Paradise Road near the airport was at the center of controversy when Clark County officials allowed Occupy Las Vegas protesters to camp there.

They called it Area 99. It was a place for supporters in the movement to voice their opinions about corporate greed and influence in politics.

Then the homeless came, and the occupation site seemed to transform into an extension of social services as the protesters tried to connect the poor with resources in between camp meetings about foreclosures, unemployment and the 99 percent.

Then most of the protesters left.

Police and paramedics began visiting more frequently to check on the welfare of certain campers with what appeared to be mental health issues. Internal quarrels among protesters threatened to split up the group, and another faction of the movement was created.

Now the parking lot is nearly empty.

The local chapter of the Occupy Wall Street movement kept its word and vacated the area Monday afternoon, a condition of the agreement with the county.

The county permit expired at 5 p.m. The group of 30 or so counted down the time and joked that they were trespassing once the time was up.

One police officer drove up in a cruiser to check on the status of the cleanup. He didn’t arrest anyone at the site. He was just monitoring.

The final moments of the occupation were a tearful occasion for some as they packed up their belongings and said their goodbyes. Some had no idea where they would sleep that night.

“It’s kind of sad,” said Liza, a homeless woman who joined the movement once she moved to the campsite in December. “This wasn’t just a place to go, it was somewhere to stay. Now you take what you can carry. Keep it light. Keep it moving.”

Another woman, Rose, said she was “ashamed of city and county officials for not stepping up to the plate in this grand experiment.”

County officials granted a one-month permit to the group in October.

County management signed off on an additional 90 days in November, one day after 21 protesters were arrested for stopping traffic on northbound Las Vegas Boulevard in front of the federal courthouse.

County commissioners expressed their disappointment about the arrests and questioned extending the permit.

Trash bags, brooms, cinder blocks and boxes littered the area Monday afternoon. A few tents remained. Loud music played as people cleaned up the area. The soundtrack for an occupation cleanup included Tom Petty and the politically charged Rage Against the Machine.

Anthony Goodley, 45, lost his job as a cabdriver three years ago when the recession hit. He joined protesters about a month ago “partially for a place to stay.”

“I kinda think when we leave here, I’m afraid we’ll scatter,” said Goodley, who planned to leave Las Vegas for Wyoming.

Other protesters alluded to a handful of new occupation sites scattered throughout the city, but they didn’t want to give away any locations

At the final group meeting on site, people choked back tears, discussed what was ahead for the movement as the presidential election nears and talked about setting aside their differences.

They made clear that while the occupation site might be gone, they’re not done protesting.

Contact reporter Kristi Jourdan at kjourdan@
reviewjournal.com or 702-455-4519.

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