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‘Occupy Las Vegas’ Homeless, Seeks Space to Occupy

By Candice Leigh Helfand
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Protesters affiliated with the "Occupy Las Vegas" movement march on the Las Vegas Strip on Oct. 6, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nev.. (credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images News)

Protesters affiliated with the “Occupy Las Vegas” movement march on the Las Vegas Strip on Oct. 6, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nev.. (credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images News)

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LAS VEGAS (CBS Las Vegas) — “Occupy Las Vegas” is homeless as organizers for the grassroots movement are having trouble finding an actual space to occupy.

Sebring Frehner, one of the Las Vegas movement’s many organizers, said that the problem comes from the way big government has designed legislation regarding taking up residence or assembling outdoors.

“Unfortunately, our society detests the homeless so much that they’ve written ordinances that bar them from existing, disregarding the fact that they didn’t choose to be there and don’t want to be homeless,” Frehner told CBS Las Vegas. “They only ended up there because our society is so broken, and that’s part of what we’ve been fighting. It’s more than just a couple of ordinances, it’s the perception society has of itself.”

Organizers are all the same trying to work with government officials to find a solution to their space issues.

Erik R. Pappa, director of public communications for Clark County, said that “Occupy Las Vegas” approached county commissioners during the public comments section of a meeting.

“They wanted some assistance in finding a space … (and) have spoken to at least one commissioner,” Pappa told CBS Las Vegas. “We’ve (also) had some staff meet with them.”

As for the matter of the commissioners officially helping the movement with finding space, a decision has yet to be reached.

“The issue is still in a state of flux,” Pappa noted.

Since late September, the 35 or so lead organizers of “Occupy Las Vegas” have brought somewhere around 200 to 350 volunteers and thousands of protesters together.

“This is not a typical group, and we’re not just based on one or two issues. We want corruption out of government, and we want our money back,” Johnathan Abbinett, a veteran’s advocate and fellow organizer, told CBS Las Vegas. “We want full equality, full justice, full peace. We want the American dream back.”

During the day, the movement has no trouble finding public space to legally occupy. But complications crop up when the sun goes down.

“Pretty much everything gets locked down,” Frehner explained.

Initially, “Occupy Las Vegas” sought to lease private space for use, in order to avoid legal complications with outdoor occupation. However, they found their efforts quickly thwarted by opposing forces who would allegedly research, then bid for, the spaces organizers were eyeing.

“All of a sudden, after no one even looking at or making phone calls or placing bids on these properties, all of them had four to six bids,” Frehner added. “I hate to say it, but I wasn’t surprised at all.”

After also receiving outright refusals from churches and other organizations for use of their space, they have gone to the Clark County government in hopes of peaceably working out a space that both satisfies the needs of the “Occupy Las Vegas” organizers and the mandates of local law.

Though “Occupy Las Vegas” has been able to organize a series of demonstrations during the daytime hours, the opportunity to make their mission into a 24-hour, constant entity is crucial to the long-term objectives they have.

“The reality is that if you have a 24-hour command center … right next to where you’re taking action, it’s far more productive and gives us a much greater public presence than a bunch of people sitting at home on their couches playing on their wireless keyboards,” Frehner said. “We need people to see that we’re out there taking action constantly. This is not just some kind of weekend warrior hobby.”

Though Frehner and Abbinett both said that Clark County Manager Don Burnette has created some issues for the movement, organizers remain hopeful that government officials will want to work in tandem with “Occupy Las Vegas” to make it as peaceful and law-abiding an occupation as possible.

“We are hoping that (the county commissioners) are going to make a positive decision. We want to be the one where there are no arrests, as we don’t see a need for that,” Abbinett said. “We have no interest in political theater.”

Clark County is reportedly expected to reach an official decision regarding the matter later today.

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