Frederick’s version of the Occupy Wall Street movement has set up their own camp in the city’s downtown district to bring attention to housing foreclosures and evictions.
About 15 people pitched tents along Carroll Creek on South Market Street on Sunday — when temperatures dropped to the 20s.
They remained there Wednesday morning.
Dressed in long coats, hats and gloves, members of Occupy Frederick said this week that they want banks to halt foreclosures and instead help people who have fallen behind in paying their mortgages stay in their homes.
“We’re the same brand [Occupy Wall Street], but we’re geared toward the small town, local issues,” said Andrew Vache, 21, of Frederick. “Our focus is on the homeless and housing in the county. There is no shortage of [vacant] houses in the county, so there is no reason for homelessness.”
There are 340 homes under foreclosure in Frederick County, according to the website, Realty Trac.
Jacob Hess,19, of Frederick, said the group hopes that number will go down, by bringing attention to the issue.
Vache said despite the cold temperatures they plan to continue living in tents along Carroll Creek as long as it takes to educate the public about foreclosures and evictions.
An information tent has been set up at the camp site with pamphlets about the group’s mission. Members talked with interested visitors who wanted to see the campsite, which included eight tents. Motorists have also been driving by, honking their horns for support or yelling, “Get a job,” Hess said.
The protestors also have scheduled an “Occupy our Homes” seminar from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Feb. 4 at Hillcrest Community Center, 1150 Orchard Terrace in Frederick. The event will include guest speakers and legal experts to assist people facing foreclosure.
Similar Occupy Wall Street camps are set up in cities nationwide — most of them angry over the bank bailouts and corporate greed. But many have also clashed with officials and police when they resisted leaving the encampments.
Lt. Clark Pennington of the Frederick City Police Department said Monday there are no city ordinances banning the Frederick group from camping in protest. Pennington said the department has been in touch with Occupy Frederick for months, in preparation for the camp.
“We’ve had an open communication with them since the beginning,” he said. “We’ve had an open dialogue with them and we continue to. We’ve spoken to them and to their lawyers. We’ve already had good communications with them. We’re talking about day one here, but the open communication is promising.”
But not all the businesses located near the camp site are pleased.
“Everybody has their right to do what they want to do, but I wish they would have set up their camp in [downtown] Baker Park,” said Sasha Lupinacci, manager of the Green Turtle restaurant. “I hope they don’t hurt businesses like us. We’re always trying to work with the community, and they have their rights, but we have to look at the bigger picture.”
But Becky Cooper, manager of the La Paz, said the restaurant has no problem with the group camping next to the restaurant.
“I don’t think there is a concern,” she said. “They’re doing what they have to do. I just feel bad for them, because it’s so cold.”