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Tom Tetherow has to tend to his cats.

That's why his wife, Jo, is the only permanent occupant of the big, blue tent the couple used to pitch on camping trips to New York state. But Sunday afternoon, Tom left the felines at home and joined his wife at the Occupy Lincoln demonstration.

Tom said he lost about two-thirds of his retirement savings in the recession, squashing the couple's dreams of buying an RV and driving it across the country.

So instead of loading up a Winnebago for trips to Yosemite or to their favorite trout stream in southwest New York, Jo Tetherow is camping closer to home on Centennial Mall.

Part summer camp, part dormitory and part commune, the 25 tents nestled just north of the Capitol are what organizers hope will be a long-term protest against corporate greed and monetary policy. Inspired by the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York City, the local occupiers held meetings last week and set up camp Saturday after a march through downtown.

Just a day after pitching their tents in the shadows of the Capitol, the group already had set up a meeting space, cooking area and logistics tent.

Businesses and sympathizers donated food, and some protesters made grocery runs to bolster the pantry of the Really, Really Free Market. As the makeshift café's name suggests, food was available at no cost to demonstrators.

Some of the vegan demonstrators whipped up a mean tofu breakfast -- "Tasted just like eggs," one first-time tofu eater said -- and were preparing pumpkin bisque for dinner. Thirsty occupiers had their pick of strawberry smoothies ladled from a crockpot, juice or bottled water.

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About 50 demonstrators, including many who aren't spending the night, sat in a large circle on the mall's lawn Sunday afternoon.

Taking a cue from the New York protesters who are banned from using microphones, the meeting was slowed as the people around the speaker repeated what was said every 10 words so that others could hear.

The occupiers ranged in age from grade-schoolers to the elderly, though many looked to be in their 20s or 30s.

Mary Ann Shiech, who started the Facebook group that prompted the occupation, said the response so far has been positive. With temperatures expected to drop below freezing this week and a long winter of camping on the horizon, Shiech is hoping people drop blankets off at the protest site.

Unlike New York and other cities, Lincoln's protesters and police seemed to be coexisting. Several demonstrators complimented officers and other local officials for not bothering them, and Lincoln Police Capt. David Beggs said there were no law enforcement incidents at the site that he was aware of.

Tom Tetherow, the 63-year-old who lost much of his savings in the stock market crash, said the demonstration wasn't about causing problems.

"We're not trying to stir up trouble," the Vietnam War veteran said. "We're trying to affect change."

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Reach Mitch Smith at 402-473-2655 or msmith@journalstar.com.

 

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