MEMPHIS, TN— When the "Occupy" movement started, protesters in Memphis jumped on board. They've been camped out downtown for four months but now critics question whether the Occupy camp has turned into more of a homeless hangout with drugs, alcohol, drinking and now fights. Memphis Police had to break-up a fight at the Occupy camp Thursday afternoon. Most of the protestors told abc24.com they don't know exactly what they're fighting for and now downtown business owners say they've had enough.
An ambulance and half a dozen MPD squad cars surrounded the Occupy Memphis camp at Civic Plaza. Two protesters were in a fight, sending one man to the hospital with a broken nose.
"Next thing I know Jake head butts him and then walked off,” said protester David Manson.
Terry Carrico, also a protester, tried to break the two young guys apart. He says things like this give the movement a bad name.
"We like to get along with everybody and to convey that image. We don't want any problems on the camp. We've had a few problems of drinking and the police have been excellent with us to help us rectify it,” said Carrico.
Protesters say they've had other problems too.
"We've had problems of drinking and smoking, we had to weed them out," said Manson. “A couple of people went to jail."
"We've had issues with people that are homeless," said another protester, Amber McCudy.
That's what one employee at Pinnacle Airlines is tired of seeing: people living on public property. He wrote a letter complaining to Shelby County Mayor Luttrell saying it's "past time Shelby county authorities or the city of Memphis evicts these squatters."
Others are split on the issue. A downtown grocery store owner says the camp is an eyesore but it's not hurting business.
“It’s the way that they're just sitting around with the tents and they're out there,” said Amanda Delancey, manager of Easy Way grocery. “Sometimes they get on their soap box and really talk loud and stuff, other than that they're pretty quiet they just do what they do."
So what do they do?
"You're asking the wrong girl. I would love to have the whole group here to tell you,” said McCudy.
The protesters are violating city code. They can't "sleep" on public property and they need a permit to protest but the city of Memphis has not given the demonstrators a deadline to leave. Mayor Wharton and the Downtown Commission say as long as it's a peaceful gathering and it's not causing a health hazard, Occupy protestors can continue to camp out on public property.