Occupy Wall Street protesters in Bloomington say they're settling in for the long haul as city officials say efforts to clean up behaviors and reduce complaints from businesses and residents appear to be working.
The encampment at Peoples Park in Bloomington has brought in portable toilets to address sanitation issues and has set up a kitchen with a propane-fueled stove, a library with several hundred books and a sign reading "Welcome Winter." Many campers have added cots or extra padding in their tents for warmth, The Herald-Times reported.
The steps are an indication that, unlike other Occupy protests that have dismantled, the Bloomington effort is "as strong or stronger than it has ever been," said protester Ryan Conway, an Indiana University graduate student who is pursuing a doctorate in political science.
IU junior Eli Luckett, who has been with Occupy since shortly after it started on Oct. 9, said he intends to remain in Peoples Park "as long as it takes."
Luckett said participants have been in high spirits recently, especially following the "autonomous action" of some members who protested a J.P. Morgan recruiting event at IU's Kelley School of Business Monday, resulting in five arrests.
"Everyone's been really pumped and excited for the future," he said.
The Peoples Park protest had drawn complaints from local business owners, who charged that the encampment had attracted homeless residents and said some of those in the camp were using their recycling bins for human waste.
Supporters have argued their presence downtown has improved the plight of the city's homeless by offering food, shelter and compassion to many who have frequented the park for years.
The arrival of portable toilets has helped address those concerns.
Mayor Mark Kruzan said people have urged him to evict the protesters as New York city Mayor Michael Bloomberg did. But Kruzan said he thinks "the right to freedom of speech outweighs the inconvenience or the (protesters) rubbing people the wrong way" and noted that only a handful of the roughly 2,500 Occupy movements worldwide have been shut down.
"If we're using other cities as the model, then we're in step with maybe the 99 percent of cities that are allowing them to occur," Kruzan said.
Conway said even protesters who've been evicted from their camps in other cities plan to continue working for the movement.
"I think there's still a lot of passion and a lot of hope," he said. "(The movement) can take many forms. And I feel it's a joy to see new forms come."