Occupy Riverside invites city officials, public to outdoor Thanksgiving dinner

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Members of Occupy Riverside are inviting city officials and the public to share a Thanksgiving potluck dinner Thursday evening. It’s at the Occupy encampment in the city’s downtown area that’s become a source of tension between authorities and activists.

The Occupy encampment near city hall and directly in front of UC Riverside’s Culver Center of the Arts was cleared out by police a couple of weeks ago. But the tents are back.

About two dozen people are camped there. The encampment also has its own kitchen — the People’s Kitchen, run by a couple of Occupy supporters.

Russell Haynes is an Occupy regular in his early 20s; he’s unemployed and can’t afford to get treatment for a medical condition. Haynes says he sleeps and eats here so he’s not a burden on his parents. He says they’re just scraping by themselves.

“It’s a time for thanks and a time for giving right?" Haynes said. "So we invite everybody to come out, engage in dialogue and eat a bunch a great food. I mean, that’s my take on it!"

Haynes runs down the menu. "Turkey, of course, corn, potatoes. It’s a potluck kind of situation, so a couple churches in the area have volunteered to donate a bunch of food. They said upwards of like 200 plates. And then different Occupiers and people from the community are going to be bringing their choice dishes.”

The city and the Occupiers have a chilly relationship that Haynes hopes can be improved. The activists extended a Thanksgiving potluck invite to city leaders during a council meeting earlier this month. Haynes says there was no response.

“We would like our relationship with the city to be on great terms," Haynes said. "We’ve extended the invitation. It’s up to them know to, you know, the ball is in their court, as they say.”

Haynes says Occupiers are working harder to accommodate local merchants affected by the encampment. Activists are also encouraging shoppers to visit downtown Riverside stores and restaurants on Black Friday and throughout the holiday season.

“Some people were discussing possibly going to the Tyler Mall and marching there," said Haynes, "but I would prefer seeing people support local businesses, especially in downtown Riverside, because its my community."

"We have a list of small businesses that is going up on the website where you can buy things like crafts, things of that nature," Haynes said, "as opposed to going to Walmart and all these big corporate stores."

The Occupy Riverside Thanksgiving Day meal begins at 4 o’clock Thursday afternoon.

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