As the Occupy movement confronts concerns from police and politicians about violence and public health issues in encampments across the country, some members seem to be preparing to move their cause forward - even if it means leaving the parks and public spaces they've called home for months.
The movement is believed to be at a crucial stage right now. Colder weather is setting in. The willingness of public officials to accommodate the movement is at odds with their desire to protect public health and safety. And concerns about violence at the gatherings are reaching new levels.
Police in riot gear moved into the Occupy Oakland encampment early Monday, tearing down tents and arresting some protesters, the latest effort by city officials across the country to control a movement that some leaders say has become a public safety and health threat. Oakland officials had warned protesters to move out of Frank Ogawa Plaza over the weekend. Before dawn Monday, police surrounded the plaza and lined up in the streets where protesters had gathered. The eviction notices came after a "frequent resident" of the camp allegedly shot and killed another man.
An uptick in violence at the gatherings, including some deaths and allegations of vandalism, has led officials to try to control the movements as organizers try to battle what they call fringe violent groups at the protests.
In Philadelphia, Mayor Michael Nutter said Sunday that what started as a peaceful protest 39 days ago has given way to increasing public safety concerns.
"Occupy Philly has changed," he said. "We're seeing serious health and safety issues playing out on an almost daily basis. ... The people of Occupy Philly have also changed, and their intentions have changed. And all of this is not good for Philadelphia."
The health concerns stem from allegations that unsanitary conditions at the camps - resulting from public urination and crowding - present a danger to the public There was also concern about a strain of tuberculosis found near the protests in Atlanta, but a movement leader said that tests showed no disease among Occupy Atlanta members, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
So how are some members of the Occupy movement trying to keep their message moving forward and staying positive amid all of these concerns?
It appears that ahead of winter, they're preparing to encourage members to take the movement into their own neighborhoods and spread the message in a more meaningful, and perhaps personal, way.
They're calling it Occupy Your Block.
"The strength of our movement rests on our ability to engage one another. The Occupy movement is more than a physical occupation. This movement is in each one of us; in our will and determination," a statement on OccupyYourBlock.org states. "It is in our local community organizations, religious groups, schools, and neighborhoods. To bring attention to this, Occupy Wall Street is calling for the winter months to be a time of teach-ins, open forums, potluck meetings, discussion groups, local general assembly meetings and community building projects. ... This is how our movement builds."
The site promotes the idea that now is not just the time to "Occupy" places, but to organize grass-roots discussions to ensure that if the time comes when members can't occupy the areas they have been, their discussion will still move forward.
The site is complete with a calendar of local events, such as an "Occupy Wall Street Teach-In" at Sarah Lawrence College and a discussion about public housing during the Harlem General Assembly.
It is perhaps an answer to the question many have proposed: What happens next for Occupy when attempts are made to disperse the large gatherings?
The call to action against unequal distribution of wealth and other causes began in September in New York's Zuccotti Park before it spread nationwide and then globally. Some of the concerns from the start were how long protesters would be able to stay, how they would move forward when they were dispersed and how they could do so successfully.
Certainly, the question still exists. People still question what exactly Occupy wants to happen, what an end game would look like and whether the protest will have a real impact.
While those specifics may be open to interpretation, it seems the movement has no intent of slowing down, despite its obstacles.
One breakout group from New York recently began a two-week walk from Zuccotti Park to Washington, where members hope to arrive in time for the congressional super committee hearing where politicians are working to forge a deficit reduction deal at the heart of concerns of the Occupy movement.
"The plan is to make it to DC on November 23 for the Congressional Super Committee meeting which will be deciding whether the Bush tax cuts to the top 1% will stay or go. We want these cuts gone! We are taking action to fight for the 99%! Please join us if you are able," the website for the march says. "Whether for an hour, a day, or the full two weeks, we feel itâs imperative for OWS to respect and participate in the historical significance of long distance marches to support, promote, and encourage economic and human equality."
They're planning to march in historic fashion. In the most basic fashion, picture the image of Forrest Gump as he just kept on going. That's what the Occupy group hopes to do as members stop at key locations in Philadelphia along the way to encourage people to join in as the "Occupy the Highway" marches to Washington.
Over the next few days and weeks, concerns from officials will challenge protesters looking to continue to make their voices heard. It remains to be seen how being removed from the areas they've inhabited may affect that ability.
ButÂ the movement already has seeped into the conversation enough that it may have staying power, wherever it ends up.
Case in point: Our partners at Time.com are asking readers who they believe will be their Person of the Year for 2011, and the 99% have more than a 10,000-vote lead. If nothing else, that means people are paying attention. And perhaps, that's precisely the point.