Protesters return to St. Louis park after arrests

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Several Occupy St. Louis protesters arrested for defying an order to leave a park where they had been camped for weeks were released from jail Saturday, and demonstrators were expected to test the city's resolve for a second straight night.

Chrissie Brooks, 31, of St. Louis, said she waited outside the jail and that at least five protesters had been released by Saturday afternoon. She said she would be returning to Kiener Plaza, site of the protest, and was anticipating more arrests Saturday night.

"We will be back at Kiener at 10 p.m. And we have no intention of leaving," she said by phone.

She said, however, that it was up to individual protesters to decide if they were willing to risk arrest.

"As I understand it now, we do have people willing to be arrested, but that could change come 10 o'clock," Brooks said. "We don't want anyone arrested who doesn't want to be arrested."

Police arrested about two dozen people just after midnight Friday after U.S. District Judge Carol Jackson declined the protesters' request for a temporary injunction allowing them to remain in the park at least through the weekend. She scheduled a hearing for Tuesday to consider whether the protesters should be allowed to move to a different area of the park.

The city has said the park is off limits from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m.

St. Louis has avoided violence, and until Saturday, only 10 arrests had been reported involving its Occupy protests — all for curfew violations on a night shortly after the encampment sprung up early last month.

Several protesters who had not been arrested returned to Kiener Plaza by 6 a.m. Saturday, and they obeyed a police request to take down a tent.

One protester, Clayton Shannon, 22, of Columbia, sounded uncertain about his plans to return to Kiener Plaza, site of the protest.

"I'll go back out there," Clayton Shannon, 22, of Columbia, told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/rU9KM8). "I don't know that I want to get arrested again — at least I'll give it a day — I want to go home and shower first."

The protesters decided Saturday that individuals should decide for themselves whether they wanted to defy the 10 p.m. curfew and face arrest. The city has said they could move to the sidewalks and protest there round the clock.

A posting on the Occupy St. Louis website said that the group believes "our encampment is a valid form of political speech justified by the First Amendment."

Jeff Rainford, the chief of staff for Mayor Francis Slay, reiterated Saturday that the city would be enforcing the curfew at the park "from here on out."

"We certainly hope they take advantage of their First Amendment rights within the parameters of local law and good citizenship," he told The Associated Press.

At its peak, the encampment had 50 tents, but when police moved into the park early Saturday only slightly more than a dozen remained, as some demonstrators had heeded the warning and left.

There have been only a few violent clashes between police and demonstrators in the many Occupy protests that have sprung throughout the country — the most notable of them two separate clashes in Oakland, Calif., in which two Iraq War veterans were hurt.


Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com

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