Protesters occupied Ashland's Plaza for 22 consecutive days and nights.

Protesters occupied Ashland's Plaza for 22 consecutive days and nights.

Drawing about 250 people to its opening demonstration on Oct. 6, the occupation ended Friday when police hauled off signs, blankets, tarps and dishes from an empty Plaza.

"Our officer showed up in the morning, waited for a while and no one returned," said Ashland police Deputy Chief Corey Falls, "so we just cleaned up a lot of the stuff that was abandoned."

After clearing the Plaza, police kept the confiscated items in storage until a representative from Occupy Ashland showed up to claim the load a few days later.

"It wasn't too big of a deal," said Falls. "Unlike some of the larger cities, we really haven't had too many problems with the Occupy Ashland protesters."

Police issued three citations to people sleeping overnight in the Plaza during one night of the occupation, but the people cited were not directly affiliated with the protest, organizers said.

Occupy Ashland protesters, who make mostly collective decisions through a general assembly process, didn't vote to end the overnight occupation until Saturday, one day after their setup was cleared from the Plaza.

That night the protesters declared, "We will not camp out until significant outreach has been done, expanding the movement and broadening our base of support before taking any direct actions which could cause antagonisms within the community," according to their general assembly notes.

"I think someone was supposed to be out there," said organizer Emery Way, explaining the empty Plaza. "I guess it just didn't work out."

Way, 24, a member of the student-led activist group Phronesis, supported decreasing the presence of the Plaza protest in order to put more energy toward planning new events.

"We are going to limit our occupation to the weekends," he said, "and most likely just during the day."

He said protesters will focus most of their attention on local issues, instead of the national ones affiliated with Occupy Wall Street, because "we'll have a better chance of inciting change."

"We are trying to take the next step," said Way. "The physical occupation was absolutely great, because it brought a lot of people together and created a political tent for us to start organizing together."

He said the Occupy Ashland protesters, which will continue to hold general assemblies at 6 p.m. Wednesdays and 2 p.m. Saturdays in the Plaza, plan to protest at foreclosure auctions in Medford, and are currently attempting to collaborate with other occupy movements around Oregon.

The most ambitious goal is to organize an occupation of Salem in conjunction with the beginning of Oregon's 2012 legislative session, said Keith Haxton, 23, of Ashland, an organizer of Occupy Ashland.

Way said the group also has plans of becoming more involved with local politics.

"I think that's where a lot of the small-town occupations need to start focusing their attention," said Way. "Some of the issues are too large for groups of our size and energy to take on, but we can really make an impact at the local level."

Protesters still gather in front of Ashland's Chase Bank a few times a week to encourage people to move their accounts to local banks.

Ashland resident David Hampton, an organizer of the Chase protest, said he's glad to hear the Occupy Ashland protesters are shifting their attention toward the local level.

"I think that Ashland is just too small of a population to support the overnight type of thing," he said.

Way, a member of the student government at Southern Oregon University, is traveling to the University of Maryland on Thursday for a national conference on hunger and homelessness with two other student representatives from SOU — but that's not all he'll be doing.

"I scrounged up enough money to buy a Greyhound ticket down to New York," he said. "I'm going to join Occupy Wall Street for a few days."

Way said he plans to use his time on Wall Street listening and learning, and hopes to bring back a few new ideas and some insight for Ashland's movement.

"It's going to be interesting. I'm not really sure what to expect," he said, "except, I am pretty sure it's going to be cold."

Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email