Huddled in a tunnel not far from Burnside Park, which they've held since October 15, members of Occupy Providence voted 36-11 tonight to leave the park if the city of Providence opens a daytime shelter for the homeless.
The vote, which came at the end of an emotional and at times tense meeting of nearly three hours, just cleared the 75 percent threshhold required for approval and pushes the movement into a new and uncertain phase.
A spokesman for Mayor Angel Taveras did not immediately return a call inquiring about whether the city would accede to Occupy's demands for a homeless shelter.
Proponents of leaving the park raised concerns about the health and safety of those camped out on a nightly basis, speaking of mounting illnesses and dwindling supplies. One said the group had gone without food for two days
But there was also a concern that the movement is spending too much time answering press queries about the park, and whether it might be evicted, and not enough speaking to the core economic concerns driving the movement.
Occupier Chris Tallent said he feared the movement would grow "stale" in the park and argued that moving on could force new creativity.
Opponents said the daytime shelter plan was not well thought out. And they said asking the city to open such a shelter, as a condition for Occupy's departure, gave too much power to people outside the movement. Occupy should leave the park - if at all - on the movement's terms, they argued.
What next? It's not clear if the city will accede to the demands - so the movement could be in the park for some time. If it moves on, there is talk of occupying foreclosed homes, among other possibilities. Whatever happens, Occupiers insist they aren't going away.