Occupy Providence can claim a big win with the opening of a day shelter for the homeless.
The group's General Assembly had demanded a day center in exchange for leaving Burnside Park - a clever push to turn the city's concerns about Occupyers' health and safety, as the weather grew colder, into a focus on the health and safety of the homeless.
The city voiced skepticism about the wisdom of opening a day shelter, but when the Diocese of Providence stepped up, the deal was done.
Now, the central question for Occupy Providence (OP) is this: can it effect change, moving forward, without occupation as unifying force for the movement and leverage in negotiations with the city?
Occupyers insist they have big plans for 2012; and anyone who thinks the group will just fade underestimates its commitment and creativity. But as I wrote in a Phoenix cover story on the group's next moves, Occupy's deep distrust of conventional politics and establishment non-profits - while central to its appeal - necessarily places some limits on the movement's arsenal.
Working outside the system, OP will have a to create a protest so noisy, so powerful, that the insiders can't ignore it. Can they do that? Without the park? We're about to find out.