There are Protesters Camping Out All Week at Cleveland City Hall

After Roe, goal is to build solidarity through intersectionality

click to enlarge Occupation for Liberation at Cleveland City Hall (7/10-1/16/22). - Sam Allard / Scene
Sam Allard / Scene
Occupation for Liberation at Cleveland City Hall (7/10-1/16/22).

A group of young protesters are camping out on the steps of Cleveland City Hall all week in a sustained demonstration to engage and agitate in the aftermath of the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade last month.

The "Occupation for Liberation" began Sunday at midnight and will last the full week, with semi-organized discussions and events each evening that will highlight a new topic each day: from police violence to LGBTQIA+ rights.

click to enlarge Occupation for Liberation at Cleveland City Hall (7/10-1/16/22). - Sam Allard / Scene
Sam Allard / Scene
Occupation for Liberation at Cleveland City Hall (7/10-1/16/22).

Members of the group, a decentralized collective of committed young people, some of whom are members of other activist organizations in Cleveland, spoke with Scene Tuesday morning to explain and contextualize their demonstration. They said they met each other in the streets during protests after the Dobbs decision and had been discussing ways to keep the momentum going. The goal of the current action, they said, was to build "solidarity through intersectionality," and to build community while engaging with critically important issues.

"Camping out here every night for a week is to demonstrate how much we care," said one of the group's organizers, who agreed to speak under condition of anonymity. "We could pack up every night and go home, but a small group of us are here to show that the fight does not end when the protest is over. This is a priority for us, and we're uprooting our lives to be here all week. We're protesting by simply existing in this space."

The group said that they've been encouraged by the support and engagement they've received, both from passing motorists and pedestrians and from City Hall workers themselves, who have been largely supportive.   

The duration of the action may seem excessive to some at first blush, but organizers said the location and length of their occupation had been arrived at thoughtfully. A week is long enough to garner attention, to agitate and even to become an irritant, but not to cause major disruptions. City Hall was selected as both a geographical and symbolic center of Cleveland. And while the current action is more about community building than calling for specific policies, participants said the issues that mobilized them — from reproductive justice to the rising tide of fascism and omnipresent climate catastrophe — required both long-term engagement and immediate relief. 

They said they supported, for example, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Mike O'Malley's position not to prosecute abortions, but said state and federal interventions would also be required to preserve abortion rights.

click to enlarge Occupation for Liberation at Cleveland City Hall (7/10-1/16/22). - Sam Allard / Scene
Sam Allard / Scene
Occupation for Liberation at Cleveland City Hall (7/10-1/16/22).

The size of the demonstration ebbs and flows. There were about 10 participants on site Tuesday morning, though several others had recently departed. They have set up hammocks and makeshift tents on the City Hall steps and on nearby grassy areas. To pass the time during the day, those present play cards and board games, read books from a growing library, and engage in lively conversation about topics both political and personal.

"This is fun," said one of the group's members. "And it should be. We're developing deeper connections and deeper friendships as we're spending all this time together. A big part of this is community building. We chant it all the time, but this is what community looks like."

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About The Author

Sam Allard

Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...
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