Occupy Wall Street Tucson Kitchen Folds Its Tents – For the Moment

By on December 14, 2011

Occupy Tucson Carries On.  Just no longer Marching on its stomach.




By Doug Mitchell, from his warm, dry home in Tucson




It is raining right now in Tucson, Arizona.  A steady, cold rain.  The kind that gets into your bones and tells you to go back to bed with a cup of hot tea and forget this day.  Trouble is, there aren’t any beds at the Occupy Tucson encampment in Veinte de Agosto Park. 

There are only flimsy tents with cold, soggy ground underneath, and the occupants no longer have the facilities to heat water, or have enough teabags to go around.   The “kitchen” was closed down last week.

 After seven weeks of preparing hot meals three times a day for over 125 occupiers, the leaders of the “leaderless” movement decided to replace the kitchen crew.  Evidence had been found that one of them had squirreled away a box of breakfast cereal in his tent, and always insisted on everyone sanitizing their hands before eating.  

Another occupier, an angry man with an agenda, was appointed the “non-leader” of the kitchen, and within days the place was a pig sty of rotting food, flies and filthy pots and pans.  Tucson health officials moved in and the kitchen was closed.

 First to anything cooked on the premises, then to anything prepared there.  Only cold food and whatever local residents brought down could be served.  No more hot coffee in the morning.  No more hot soup and fresh salad on a dreary day.  Only peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on stale bread and whatever could be scrambled up from cans and the occasional platter of pasta whipped up by still generous restaurants and locals.  This army would no longer march on its belly. 

My wife and I went down to visit the park yesterday.  We hadn’t been there for a couple of weeks.  We had gotten turned off, scared really, by the in-fighting among the “non-leaders,” and the fist fights among the homeless that had amassed in the park.  It was understandable. 

We offered free, sometimes hot food and a safety zone for the street people of downtown Tucson.  Naturally they would come.  And naturally they would bring their problems with them.  If you asked them about the Occupy Movement, their response would be something like, “When’s lunch?”

 But even though they didn’t realize it, they were part of the movement, too.  And they were hungry and tired of living on heating vents and in doorways.  We found out that Lonny still hadn’t gone home because he loaned some of his money to another occupier who conveniently forgot to repay him. 

The peacekeepers had disbanded and the park was now pretty much at the mercy of anyone whose arms were strong and whose temperament was unstable.   One of the “non-leader” former peacekeepers told us patrolling the park just got to be too much, and he feared for his safety. 

And Mike Martin, a young Movement man who recognized us from our work in the kitchen, said his biggest fear was that someone would die of hypothermia —  winter nights in Tucson can get down in the twenties, and we’ve already had several severe freezes. 

The fellow who had taken over the kitchen and helped close it down came over to us as if we were old friends and stuck out a gloved hand for me to shake.  He then proceeded to excuse himself from any responsibility for the kitchen closure, assuming I was some kind of authority.  I listened patiently and then, despite my intense fear of him, I uttered a few words of praise for the previous kitchen crew and turned away. 

He went off to get a plate of cold food and screamed at invisible opponents that he “could take as much as he damned-well wanted.”  After a few hugs and well-wishes, we left, got into our car and drove to our warm home and cup of hot tea.  Later, we crawled into our waiting bed and spent a sleepless night trying to forget the day. 


Occupy Tucson will soon be gone.  The police are playing it right; allowing the local movement to implode in on itself.  The constant citations are meaningless; something about blood and turnips. 

But the cold, the rain, the lack of hot food and a decent night’s sleep, they mean something.  And the Tucson authorities know that.  The Occupy Wall Street Movement will continue, however. 

Plans are underway for a spring renewal and June declaration of the Movement demands.  Somewhere, a real leader will rise up and take OWS to its next level.  There will be signs, marches and occupation of public land again.  And maybe, just maybe, Congress and the President will listen and act to stop the economic injustice that is so prevalent in our country. 

In the meantime, Lonny, Sammy, Mike and Matthew and thousands like them are still on the streets.  Still hungry, wet and cold.  Still trying to get a toehold in this land of liberty and justice for all. 



OWS Tucson Kitchen Staff


About Doug Mitchell