A single unoccupied tent remains in position earlier this month at Illinois State University as the Occupy BloNo movement attempts to maintain its public presence in the Twin Cities on Monday, April 2, 2012. (The Pantagraph/David Proeber)

David Proeber

NORMAL — In the months that students and area residents camped out in protest against the nation’s capitalistic society, at least a few of the dedicated Occupy BloNo participants dreamed the McLean County Tea Party would stop by, ask questions and, in essence, hug it out.

“It’s important to let go of those things we can’t agree with, so we can do what we can agree with,” said Kelby Cumpston, an Occupy BloNo protester and Illinois State University student who has attended a local tea party meeting. He said the tea party’s ideals of limited government have merit but not as long as corporations rule.

“It’s not a good idea until we fix the corrupt system that puts people at the bottom,” said Jenn Carrillo, another Occupy BloNo protester and ISU student.

Told about the local Occupy group’s dream, McLean County Tea Party founder Diane Benjamin chuckled. “I want capitalism actually practiced in this country. It hasn’t been. It’s been government interference,” she said.

The two aren’t likely to join forces anytime soon, but both now find themselves as echoes of national movements trying to make a difference by starting in local communities or governments.

For Occupy BloNo, that means becoming a new organization.

Cumpston, Carrillo and several others who gave rise to or connected with each other through the Occupy BloNo movement will kick off the Direct Democracy Project next month with a 6:30 p.m. May 1 meeting in Withers Park. The project will seek to effect more immediate, tangible change than Occupy by identifying local problems and pushing for or creating change.

The project remains vague, because the problems the group will tackle will be determined by a system of direct democracy, a lingering Occupy element.

Those already planning on participating said they hope the Direct Democracy Project will be more successful and long-lasting than Occupy BloNo by having localized goals.

The lack of a campsite should help with longevity too, Carrillo said. She said those who camped with Occupy nightly became viewed as a clique, creating a divide in what was supposed to be a very open movement. “We spent a lot of (time) talking about camp things,” Carrillo said, noting the need to winterize the tent. “For people who want to focus on politics, that’s a drag.”

Now, Occupy’s campsite in the plaza in front of ISU’s Milner Library is typically void of protesters. Only a tent remains, but Carrillo said the movement isn’t over.

“Occupy doesn’t have a finite beginning or end. The effects are reverberating. Some you can see, some you cannot,” Carrillo said.

While the Direct Democracy Project is new and largely a follow-up to Occupy BloNo, organizers said it builds off of a project that preceded Occupy — the Common Action Free School, which has offered free classes in informal settings about topics including anarchism, sign language and sewing.

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