CHAPEL HILL - Can Occupy Chapel Hill continue without actually occupying anything?
A week after police evicted squatters from the old Yates Motor Co., and with winter approaching, members and supporters of the tent encampment outside the Franklin Street post office talked tactics Sunday.
Though the Yates Motor occupation was not an Occupy Chapel Hill event, some said it energized the movement, which first pitched tents on Peace and Justice Plaza nearly six weeks ago.
"It's been great," said Mike Connor, a warehouse worker. "We've had two marches since that have had 100 people or more. More people are coming to our meetings."
Some said real change requires taking risks.
"They're only allowing this (encampment on the plaza) because thy don't see us making a real change here," said Liz Reeves, a full-time nurse who said she was handcuffed but not arrested in the Nov. 13 Yates Motor incident.
"We're really going to have to analyze our views of right and wrong," she said. "If we stay with what's safe, we're going to have a hard time making any changes."
Some urged the group to build more community support before taking actions that could backfire and hurt Occupy's goals of economic and political reform.
But Carrboro Alderman Sammy Slade said waiting for broad support would be "a waste of time."
Slade, who wrote an email to his fellow aldermen last week decrying police militarization, said early activists on climate change did not wait for a majority buy-in to spread their message.
"It's appalling to me that this question of illegality of (occupying) that building is more salient than that we had people with machine guns pointed at them."
Sunday's discussion didn't settle things.
About a dozen tents and a literature table remain on the plaza, even though some concede colder temperatures could force a move to a another location or even possible disbandment of the post office camp.
"I like this space," Connor said. "But as other Occupies are evicted and necessarily adapt, I just want to make sure our comfy situation doesn't hold us back."
The two-hour debate drew a few supportive honks and a jeer from a passersby.
Then toward the end a man in a wheelchair sat across Franklin Street holding a sign: "33 percent of lungs left. 24/7 on oxygen. I still have a job. Your excuse is?"
Michael Keim, 27, had been waiting 44 days as of Sunday for a double lung and bone marrow transplant, he said.
The 911 dispatcher from Georgia is a patient at Duke Hospital.
"It's so broad of a topic," he said of the Occupy message. "I was raised (if) I want something I work for it. I paid for my truck. I have a motorcycle; I paid cash for it."
Steve Peterson of Chapel Hill, saw Keim's sign and left the Occupy crowd to go talk with him.
"I've got two kids. I've got a house. I'm down here because I don't think our representatives in Congress are representing us," he told Keim.
"I would agree with that," Keim replied.
But, he added. "It's not right to take over a building and then to get upset when police do their jobs."
Peterson acknowledged people within the Occupy movement disagree about the Yates Motor occupation.
But he said that diversity of opinion is part of the movement, which in Chapel Hill includes professionals such as himself, retirees, peace and social justice activists, anarchists, students and homeless people.
Peterson supports Occupy because he wants to get big corporate money out of elections.
In any movement, it takes all kinds of people taking all kinds of actions to create lasting change, said Miriam Thompson, a labor and community organizer.
"There are a lot of 'do-ers' in our community, and it's extremely important that we reach out," she said. "If you want to see Occupy stand for something, do it."