Notes From the Occupy Tucson Kitchen

There's a kitchen at Occupy Tucson.

Well, OK, it's not a real kitchen, but it's the place that seems to host the real heart and soul of this occupation, like a kitchen does in almost every home.

That's food for you. If you have a protest or march, everyone comes together, holds signs, shouts and goes home. But when you hold an occupation, you need to feed people. Under a set of trees that seem to provide the most perfect shade sit the food/donations working group — folks responsible for running the food area and procuring donations and food.

I went there to specifically talk to Mike Bartlett, a retiree and veteran I'd seen running around all day in his jeans and UA Wildcats baseball cap. During the afternoon general assembly, there was a bit of commotion over at the kitchen that offered a bit of excitement and a minor distraction during the long consensus-driven general meeting.

A group of people drove up and walked over with several blue plastic tubs filled with brown bags. Bartlett immediately walked over, and then the Rev. Tom Hill and his wife showed up behind these volunteers. Soon, Bartlett was at the general assembly wanting to make an announcement.

A group of homeless people had donated their bag lunches to Occupy Tucson.

The Hills run WORKship, at the Z Mansion, 288 North Church Ave., which they also own. Hill made it clear to The Range that no one went hungry, but that "the people wanted to help Occupy Tucson. They wanted to be part of this and help in some way."

"That was something special," Bartlett said.

Bartlett and four other volunteers were getting ready for their work group meeting when I asked if I could sit down and specially ask them why they are volunteering and participating in Occupy Tucson. Bartlett explained that he wasn't hurting — he's retired and has benefits — but he's been feeling more and more frustrated and concerned that his vote no longer matters in this country.

Right now, the country is fractured. Bartlett said there are Tea Party members participating in the occupation, because they share the same concerns. Maybe, he agrees, this new movement is one way to bring everyone back together.

"The Tea Party was co-opted by the Koch brothers," Bartlett said, "and it became a radical extremist movement."

The occupy movement is about calling attention to the growing economic disparities in this country and unjust decisions, like Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission. One year ago, the Supreme Court handed down a decision that found that corporations have a First Amendment right to spend unlimited and unreported amounts of money to influence the outcome of elections.