COLUMBIA — Occupy COMO protesters are in the market for their own office space.
Protester Spencer Vyrostek said he and his fellow protesters have been getting in touch with local real estate agents to find an office where they can store supplies and share information about the movement with the community.
Vyrostek said he will be talking this week with Arnie Realty Group Inc. about spaces to rent or sublet downtown.
Protesters have also discussed renting an apartment as an office space so they can provide a bathroom, a space to make food and a place to rest for protesters who commute to Columbia to occupy.
Occupy COMO protester Jeremiah Coleman, who said he's from Lincoln, Neb., was the only protester outside the Daniel Boone City Building on Monday afternoon. He was excited about the prospect of an Occupy COMO office downtown and did not think that it would undermine the movement as an unofficial gathering.
Vyrostek said the group is looking for space that it could rent for between $350 and $500 per month and that, ideally, would be within a couple blocks of the City Building, where protesters have been stationed for almost three months.
“There is the concern that by having an office, our occupation becomes a bit too official,” Vyrostek said. “But we’re still just a gathering of people occupying a public space.”
Occupy Wall Street has been paying rent on an office space two blocks from Wall Street since Nov. 7, and Occupy LA protesters have recently been offered downtown office space by city officials as an incentive to leave their encampment outside Los Angeles City Hall.
Vyrostek hopes the Columbia space will be more inviting to people curious about Occupy COMO than their standard outdoor protest area on the plaza outside the City Building.
“It gives people the opportunity to participate in the movement without actively protesting," Vyrostek said. "Then, it’s no longer a ‘you’re with us or against us’ situation where you’re either a protester or not a protester.”
The group will pay the rent of the office space with donations and fundraising efforts. Vyrostek said they have enough money in their Columbia Credit Union bank account to get started.
“Ideally, we could sign a six-month lease and then decide to renew it from there," Vyrostek said. "Right now it’s about finding a place to help us get through the winter.”