Pressure to leave mounts on Occupy camps
Saturday, November 12, 2011
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Occupy Oakland protesters rallied and marched Saturday even as city officials have increased pressure on them to leave their encampment in front of City Hall.
For the second time in as many days, Oakland city officials warned protesters Saturday morning that they do not have the right to camp in the plaza overnight and face immediate arrest and the removal of their tents, stoves, sleeping bags and other belongings. The eviction notices come as officials across the country urged an end to similar gatherings in the wake of three deaths in different cities, including two by gunfire.
“Your activities are injurious to health, obstruct the free use of property, interfering with the comfortable enjoyment of (Frank Ogawa Plaza), and unlawfully obstruct the free passage or use of a public park or square,” the notice read.
Police and a city official did not respond to requests for comment on whether police were preparing to forcibly clear the camp. Protesters said Saturday’s peaceful march and rally in front of City Hall was a show of solidarity with activists in Egypt.
Oakland officials first issued the eviction notice Friday after first pleading with protesters to leave the encampment. The notice came after a fatal shooting just outside the camp Thursday.
Police officials have said a preliminary investigation suggested the shooting resulted from a fight between two groups of men at or near the encampment. Investigators do not know if the men in the fight were associated with Occupy Oakland, but protesters said there was no connection between the shooting and the camp.
The victim has not been identified.
The shooting occurred the same day a 35-year-old military veteran apparently committed suicide in a tent at a Burlington, Vt., Occupy encampment.
In Vermont, police said a preliminary investigation showed the veteran fatally shot himself in the head in a tent in City Hall Park.
The death of the Chittenden County man raised questions about whether the protest would be allowed to continue, said Burlington police Deputy Chief Andi Higbee.
Oakland officials had issued written warnings similar to Saturday’s eviction notice before officers raided the encampment on Oct. 25 with tear gas and bean bag projectiles, arresting 85 people. Oakland became a rallying point for demonstrators when an Iraq War veteran was injured during the clash.
Tensions were also high in Portland, Ore., where protesters with the movement dismantled large sections of their encampment amid a heavy police presence Saturday. Demonstrators faced a midnight deadline to clear out of two downtown parks following a month-long protest.
Mayor Sam Adams ordered the camp shut down by midnight Saturday, citing unhealthy conditions and the encampment’s attraction of drug users and thieves. Paramedics treated two people suffering from apparent drug overdoses, one on Friday and one on Saturday, bringing to four the number of nonfatal overdoses inside the camp, police said.
Demonstrations rallied Saturday evening as organizers said they hope radical elements don’t use violence to overshadow the movement’s message of peaceful resistance to income inequality and what they see as corporate greed.
But police prepared for a possible clash, warning that dozens of anarchists may be planning a confrontation with authorities. Officers seized pieces of cement blocks Friday, saying they were told some demonstrators had plans to use them as weapons against police. They said they believe some demonstrators are building shields and trying to collect gas masks.
In Salt Lake City, police arrested 19 people when protesters refused to leave a park a day after a man was found dead inside his tent at the encampment.
Police moved into the park earlier in the evening where protesters had been ordered to leave by the end of the day.
Authorities remained on the scene Saturday night as debris was cleared with a parks department front-end loader.
About 150 people had been living in the camp there for weeks.
Art Raymond, a spokesman for the mayor, said they have granted the protesters permits to maintain a 24-hour presence in the parks but will not allow camping.
City officials rescinded permits for the group to stay in the parks overnight Friday, about 12 hours after a man believed to be in his 40s was found dead inside a tent at the Occupy Salt Lake City encampment, from what police said was a combination of drug use and carbon monoxide.
In Denver, authorities forced protesters to leave a downtown encampment and arrested four people for interfering with officers who removed illegally pitched tents, said police spokesman Sonny Jackson.
Jackson says police had advised protesters since Wednesday that their tents in Civic Center Park and on a nearby sidewalk were illegal.
Some protesters blocked a nearby street, which riot police quickly cleared. Police officers also doused a bonfire with a fire extinguisher.
Protesters have been marching in Denver for sixth straight Saturdays — with dwindling numbers.
Meanwhile, Oakland police reported receiving nearly 790 complaints from around the world about officers’ actions during classes that followed the Oct. 25 raid.
More than half the complaints came from people who were not on the scene, according to police in response to an inquiry from The Associated Press. Police said 12 of the complaints came from people who were there that day. They’re still checking on the whereabouts of another 331 people who filed complaints.
A day after the raid, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan allowed protesters to reclaim the disbanded site. The camp has grown substantially since then although city officials said on Saturday the number of tents has dropped by 20 to 160 since Nov. 8.
Meanwhile, in Southern California a small group of protesters braved soggy weather on Saturday to gather for the first time under the banner of Occupy Inland Empire. Members of Occupy movements in Fontana, Redlands, Riverside, and other nearby towns marched past banks and in front of San Bernardino City Hall in what they called a “visibility action,” The Sun newspaper reported.
Protesters inspired by the Occupy movement also planned to camp over the weekend in Hendy Woods State Park in Mendocino County. The park is currently closed to camping, but about 150 to 200 people pitched tents and send up camping stoves and a firepit in the designated camping area on Saturday.
The protesters want the state to keep the park open next year. It is currently among 70 state parks slated to close under state budget cuts.
Cyd Bernstein, who helped organize the protest, said the loss of the park would hurt local businesses and middle class families looking for an inexpensive way to visit the area.
“This is really devastating to a lot of local people, a lot of local businesses,” she said. “It’s our right to gather in what public space we do have, and we just want to make a statement about how our priorities should be considered in the state of California’s budget decisions.”
Associated Press writers Josh Loftin in Salt Lake City, Jonathan J. Cooper in Portland, Ore., and Jim Anderson in Denver contributed to this report.
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