This morning, TNReport posted a story containing what may be the most ironic headline of the year so far:
State officials last Friday said they would wait a week before enforcing the state’s new law banning tenting or laying down of bedding on state property not expressly permitting camping. That includes War Memorial Plaza, a marble-topped public square where protesters have camped since October.
Michael Custer, Occupy Nashville’s most vocal spokesman, told TNReport several protesters will announce at a press conference Thursday they will risk arrest to stay on the plaza.
State officials declined to comment about exactly when or how they plan to enforce the new law.
“We’re prepared to enforce the law when those seven days are over,” said Jennifer Donnals, spokeswoman for the Department of Safety.
Indeed, with the Tennessee Highway Patrol's Operation Little Big Horn ostensibly less than 24 hours away, the remnants of Occupy Nashville must not only contend with impending eviction, but with each other as well.
As Steven Hale reported in the The City Paper this week, the movement is experiencing fractious internal squabbles over the movement's direction and the responsibilities (and, perhaps, loyalties) of its members.
"Since the new year — and particularly since the return of state legislators has forced Occupiers to ponder phase two — various factions within Occupy Nashville have cropped up, vying for attention from within and without," Hale reported. "Once-celebrated differences among members have become deepening fractures."
Hale goes on to note the split between those who camp on the plaza and those who don't, and takes particular note of a squabble between an Occupier named Jason Steen and Dorsey Malina, both of whom are members of the Occupy Nashville's PR team.
In a recent story, Nashville Scene reporter Jonathan Meador — who was arrested along with the protesters in October — quoted Malina and cited her as the group’s “public relations liaison.” In what has become a recent trend of decreased cordiality with the media, Steen, who has become one of the group’s loudest online voices, took issue with that title. In a Twitter post directed at Meador, he said, “Dorsey is not our PR liaison, nor does she speak for us.”
Minor as it may seem, the comment did stand out, given Malina’s long and prominent role with Occupy Nashville. In response to an email inquiring about the apparent discrepancy, Steen — who says he has lost his job and his home since moving to the plaza in October and slept there until a couple weeks ago when he moved into a hotel — clarified but also extended his criticism.
“Dorsey was certainly a great part of our media team for a while. However, in the past eight weeks she’s written everyone off and said she wants nothing to do with Occupy Nashville as a whole and will direct all her focus only to the housing campaign,” he wrote. “[She] has only been to one GA in two months. That’s why we’ve been trying to keep her away from the media, because she has no interest in Occupy any more other than to further her own agenda. Seems that everyone has their motives.”
Steen's comments have caused a backlash from the group's PR team, as evidenced by an email Hale and I received last night from Occupy Nashville's public relations team:
This letter is to address the inaccurate comments made to you by Jason Steen, an Occupy Nashville participant, and quoted in The City Paper, Sunday March 4, 2012. The Occupy Nashville Public Relations team wishes to inform you that Mr. Steen is no longer a member of our public relations team.
Contrary to Mr. Steen's comments, Dorsey Malina is and remains a public relations team member and a primary press liaison for Occupy Nashville. The suggestion that she has been asked to stay away from the media is untrue. She has provided exemplary service to our organization and has our unequivocal support.
Such intra-party struggle is inherent to political activities of all kinds, but with a seeming lack of cohesion so close to Occupy Nashville's eviction, it will be interesting to note the fallout from anticipated police action: Will a new round of arrests further splinter the group, or will it prove galvanizing, like the bungled arrests of October?