'Bloombergville': Activists' shantytown springs up in protest to the mayor

JUAN ESPINAL Special to the AmNews | 7/7/2011, 11:01 a.m.

For the past 14 days, blankets, sleeping bags and protest signs lined City Hall Park, where dozens of activists have been sleeping on the street in opposition to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's budget cuts.

A core group of activists have slept on the corner near City Hall every night, but they have been joined by upwards of 150 people at times to rally against Bloomberg's proposed budget. The group, which calls their encampment "Bloombergville," doesn't agree with the mayor's funding cuts towards public school teachers, CUNY schools and child care, amongst other public services.

The campsite, serving as a headquarters for rallies and protests, has kicked into high gear in the past few days. With the budget vote postponed from Friday to Tuesday night and then again to Wednesday morning, some of the protestors have credited Bloombergville for the hesitation among politicians.

"We are tired of the government stealing our knowledge, our education and our innocence!" exclaimed Naniah Ruach Shalom April Terrier, a Bloombergville coordinator and NYU student. "We are tired of our government slowly making us all homeless!"

The site has seen a surge of energy since its onset. The number of campers seems to have doubled along with the complexity, as it is now equipped with its own library and features nightly lessons by CUNY professors on other social movements.

Police have pushed the camp's location further away from its original position directly outside City Hall. It now resides under scaffolding on Broadway and Park Place in order to be protected from the elements.

"Are they still out there?" asked Bloomberg spokesman Marc Lavorgna on Tuesday afternoon, following a spirited rally outside the State Assembly. "We're wondering why they didn't camp out in Albany months ago, when the state cut the city's budget by an unprecedented amount."

Though the camp has not garnered the number of supporters as similar public sleep-ins around the world, such as Tahrir Square, coordinators said that "Bloombergville" will serve as a headquarters for rallies and information every day.

As the AmNews went to press, the City Council passed its budget on Wednesday, June 29.