ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Protesters occupying a corner of campus at the University of New Mexico say their plans to stay are open-ended.
University officials said Wednesday they have tolerated the campus camp out since Saturday, but they’re not sure how long it will be allowed to continue.
Dozens of protesters have made a temporary home of the grassy area near the intersection of University and Central to localize support for the ongoing Occupy Wall Street protest in New York City. The UNM occupation, known as “Camp Coyote,” was not planned but was conceived during street protests outside U.S. Bank and Bank of the West buildings in Albuquerque on Saturday, participants said.
They say their goal is to publicize concerns that the U.S. government has shown more support to the nation’s banks than it has to the struggling U.S. middle class.
“The average American Joe who’s a blue-collar worker needs to be bailed out more than Bank of America or U.S. Bank,” said Brody McMasters, 40. “They (the U.S. government) could care less about people like us.”
Despite heavy rains Tuesday, the group continued to weather the elements overnight, gathered underneath blue tarps tied to pine trees to fashion makeshift tents. Dozens of blankets and sleeping bags were spread across the grass to dry in the sun before another night outside.
Participants come and go throughout the day, some attending college classes and others going to work. The only organized part of the effort is a nightly “general assembly” meeting.
UNM officials say they have been “tolerant” of the protesters in allowing them to express themselves on campus. UNM policy prohibits camping on campus property.
As days pass, however, university leaders are weighing whether potential damage to the historic campus park outweighs protecting their free speech, UNM spokeswoman Karen Wentworth said Wednesday.
“We’re thinking about how long do we tolerate this,” Wentworth said.
UNM in a statement Wednesday evening said the university has requested protesters apply for a permit before noon today.
Protesters have said a UNM official approved their stay on the condition they not set up tents and prohibit alcohol and drug use. Participants say they have complied and are shifting their camp so they don’t damage the grass.
They did not know that official’s name, but Wentworth said nobody at UNM approved the on-campus protest.
“We haven’t actually come out with something yet saying, ‘Here’s how we’re going to proceed,’ ” she said.
The group is working with UNM to address the university’s concerns so it can stay, said Jyllian Roach, 28, a CNM student. Deciding how long to stay at Camp Coyote is a topic of conversation at nightly meetings, she said.
“I don’t think anyone can predict what can and will happen,” said protester David Lish.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal