Oakland protesters defy city order to leave
Saturday, October 22, 2011
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Hundreds of anti-Wall Street protesters defied a city order late Friday to leave their campsite at a plaza outside Oakland’s City Hall.
The city had given the Occupy Oakland demonstrators an ultimatum to be out by 10 p.m. PDT Friday, but there were no signs of them leaving well after that hour.
Earlier in the day, city spokeswoman Karen Boyd said that the city gave official notice that the protesters do not have permission to remain overnight and that their encampment is breaking the law.
Many protesters said they have no intentions of leaving even though the city announced Thursday that after nearly two weeks it can no longer uphold public health and safety at the site.
Boyd says she expects the protesters to comply and would not comment on what steps the city would take toward enforcing of the law.
There was no sign of police presence immediately after 10 p.m. Friday.
Several cities in the United States and around the world have arrested anti-Wall Street protesters who have failed to leave public areas.
“I’m not going anywhere. They’re going to have to come and take me away,” said Christopher Dunlap, 23, who said he has been on the City Hall lawn since the first day of the encampment.
While the city will no longer allow protesters to stay overnight at the site, they can demonstrate there from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., Boyd said.
Earlier Friday, protester Gerry Johnson, 55, who said he has been at the site for more than a week said it’s unlikely his fellow demonstrators will leave.
“I’m trying to keep calm,” Johnson said. “We’re here for a good cause. I think we’ll stand our ground.”
The encampment has quickly grown from a few dozen tents to more than 150, causing overcrowding and tension. Some protesters moved to another site across town.
Oakland officials repeatedly said the city was committed to allowing free speech, with Mayor Jean Quan proclaiming Wednesday that sometimes “democracy is messy.”
However, citing an increasing rat problem, the city made repeated requests for campers to remove fire hazards then cited public urination and acts of violence also as reasons for them to pack up and go.
Boyd said the group was cooperating in the beginning, but things had changed as they “exceeded their ability to address public health and safety issues.”
“We have been very clear about the expectations,” Boyd said. “It has gotten to a point where individuals can no longer maintain the plaza. It’s deteriorated to the point where we needed to take strong action.”
The notice to vacate didn’t sit well with protesters. Since their arrival, they have created a 24-hour kitchen, complete with pots, pans and a stove as well as areas for health and child care.
Oakland Interim Deputy Fire Chief Lisa Baker toured the perimeter of the site Friday. She said firefighters were threatened and harassed while responding to three 911 calls Thursday.
“Can I talk to your president? Who’s in charge?” Baker asked.
Robin Woods, an Oakland Occupy member, replied, “We don’t have one. This is a leaderless movement.”
Baker said, “Look, we’re not trying to be confrontational, but if someone calls 911, they will get the care and service that we provide.”
Baker urged Woods to pass along her thoughts to organizers. The two shook hands.
Anderson said that he hopes the city doesn’t try to take down the community built by demonstrators.
“This has no corporate ties. This is all public, all people, that’s why this is a threat,” Anderson said. “This is a peaceful assembly, so therefore if you want to violently come in here, what does that say about America?”