Occupy Wall Street: Many Cities Leaving Protesters Alone [LATEST UPDATES]
By ERIKA NIEDOWSKI and MEGHAN BARR, The Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) -- While more U.S. cities are resorting to force to break up the Wall Street protests, many others - Philadelphia, New York, Minneapolis and Portland, Ore., among them - are content to let the demonstrations go on for now.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, for example, said Friday that the several hundred protesters sleeping in Zuccotti Park, the unofficial headquarters of the movement that began in mid-September, can stay as long as they obey the law.
"I can't talk about other cities," he said. "Our responsibilities are protect your rights and your safety. And I think we're trying to do that. We're trying to act responsibly and safely."
Still, the city made life a lot harder for the demonstrators: Fire authorities seized a dozen cans of gasoline and six generators that powered lights, cooking equipment and computers, saying they were safety hazards.
In the span of three days this week, police broke up protest encampments in Oakland, Calif., Atlanta and, early Friday, San Diego and Nashville, Tenn.
Nashville police cracked down after authorities imposed a curfew on the protest. Twenty-nine people were arrested and later released after a judge said the demonstrators were not given enough time to comply with the brand-new rule. They received citations for trespassing instead.
Fifty-one people were arrested in San Diego, where authorities descended on a three-week-old encampment at the Civic Center Plaza and Children's Park and removed tents, canopies, tables and other furniture.
Officials there cited numerous complaints about human and animal feces, urination, drug use and littering, as well as damage to city property - the same problems reported in many other cities. Police said the San Diego demonstrators can return without their tents and other belongings after the park is cleaned up.
Earlier this week, in the most serious clashes of the movement so far, more than 100 people were arrested and a 24-year-old Iraq War veteran suffered a skull fracture after Oakland police armed with tear gas and bean bag rounds broke up a 15-day encampment and repulsed an effort by demonstrators to retake the site.
But other cities have rejected aggressive tactics, at least so far, some of them because they want to avoid the violence seen in Oakland or, as some have speculated, because they are expecting the protests to wither anyway with the onset of cold weather.
Officials are watching the encampments for health and safety problems but say that protesters exercising their rights to free speech and assembly will be allowed to stay as long as they are peaceful and law-abiding.
"We're accommodating a free speech event as part of normal business and we're going to continue to enforce city rules," said Aaron Pickus, a spokesman for the mayor of Seattle, where about 40 protesters are camping at City Hall. "They have the right to peacefully assemble. Ultimately what the mayor is doing is strike a balance."
Authorities have similarly taken a largely hands-off approach in Portland, Ore., where about 300 demonstrators are occupying two parks downtown; Memphis, Tenn., where the number of protesters near City Hall has ranged from about a dozen to about 100; and in Salt Lake City, where activists actually held a vigil outside police headquarters this week to thank the department for not using force against them.
In the nation's capital, U.S. Park Police distributed fliers this week at two encampments totaling more than 150 tents near the White House. And while the fliers listed the park service regulations that protesters were violating, including a ban on camping, a park police spokesman said the notices should not be considered warnings.
In Providence, R.I., Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare said the protesters will not be forcibly removed even after the Sunday afternoon deadline he set for them. He said he intends to seek their ouster by way of court action, something that could take several weeks.
"When you see police having to quell disturbances with tear gas or other means, it's not what the police want and it's not what we want to see in our society," Pare said.
Similarly, in London, church and local government authorities are going to court to evict protesters camped outside St. Paul's Cathedral - though officials acknowledged Friday it could take weeks or months to get an order to remove the tent city.
Several hundred protesters against economic inequality and corporate excesses have been camped outside the building since Oct. 15. On Oct. 21 cathedral officials shut the building, saying the campsite represented a health and safety hazard.
It was the first time the 300-year-old church, one of London's best-known buildings, had closed since German planes bombed the city during World War II.
In Minneapolis, where dozens have been sleeping overnight on a government plaza between a county building and City Hall, the three-week-old occupation has been far tamer than those in other cities, with only a few arrests.
Sheriff Rich Stanek has made it a practice to meet with protesters daily to talk about their issues and the day ahead, and he has refused to engage what he called "the 1 percent" who want to cause trouble.
"We decided that's not the tactic we want to take. Doing that sometimes requires biting your tongue," he said. He added: "Some people have said that's `Minnesota nice.' It's a balance."
Niedowski reported from Providence, R.I.
Associated Press Writers Doug Glass in Minneapolis; Lucas L. Johnson II in Nashville, Tenn.; Samantha Gross in New York; Terry Collins in Oakland, Calif.; Jonathan J. Cooper in Portland, Ore.; Josh Loftin in Salt Lake City; Julie Watson in San Diego; Chris Grygiel in Seattle; Ben Nuckols in Washington; and Laura Crimaldi in Providence, R.I., contributed to this story.
Latest Updates On HuffPost's Live Blog:
Via HuffPost Miami:
When an Occupy Miami member offered evicted protestors vacant apartments in a building he owns in Downtown Miami's Overtown neighborhood, it seemed like the perfect solution: the 'Peace City' space would provide headquarters for the movement and shelter a small faction of the group's most vulnerable members. But it hasn't gone well. Other tenants say the building has become a cesspool of drug use and violence while non-resident Occupy Miami members are trying to distance themselves from the 'radicals' -- all while the two factions are wrestling for control over Occupy Miami's social media sites and future plans.
The feud between the Overtown occupiers and more mainstream members has only gotten worse. The two factions are now battling for control of Occupy Miami's social media sites. The movement's main Twitter account recently announced it had been "hijacked by a small, non-consensus group of radical members." The Occupy Miami Facebook page was also temporarily hacked by someone inside Peace City. Meanwhile, the Overtown occupation is slowly driving away more moderate members.
"This is a black eye on the Occupy movement," says Shannon Reaze, an Overtown community organizer and Occupy Miami supporter who is now helping tenants move out of Paz's building. "The violence and drugs going on here are way outside of what I thought Occupy stood for. This place is destabilized."
...The supposedly hard-core activists here spend their days drinking and getting high. And as Peace City devolves into lawlessness, the most committed occupiers are leaving. Local landowners and politicians want the place shut down, while cops are suspicious. Yet as long as Paz wants the protesters around, nothing short of a demolition order can keep them out.
Via HuffPost DC:
WASHINGTON -- Occupy DC has a new lawsuit involving tents on its hands. But it doesn't involve temporary structures in McPherson Square.
Two protesters arrested during a February action outside Merrill Lynch's offices on 15th Street NW near McPherson Square have filed suit against the Metropolitan Police Department, Legal Times reports. (Read the complaint here.)
The plaintiffs, Samuel Dukore and Kelly Canavan, were part of a "targeted occupation" of Merrill Lynch on Feb. 13 where protesters were raising awareness about Merrill Lynch's reportedly close ties with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). Issa, for his part, claims that the reports of these close ties are "wildly inaccurate."
Full story here.
OWS reports via its website:
After the brutal attack on the attempted re-occupation of Liberty Square by NYPD on the 6-month anniversary of #OWS, a number of Occupiers have relocated their base of occupation to Union Square in midtown Manhattan, a point of convergence for several #OWS protests over the past 6 months.
According to reports on the ground, several dozen people slept in the park after the illegal and violent raid on Liberty Square. Over 70 people remain, now on Day 3. Although tents and tables are still banned, Occupiers have brought blankets and sleeping gear. Many are calling it ¨the new Occupation.¨ In addition to holding General Assemblies, Union Square Occupiers are providing vital jail support for those arrested on #M17 as they are released from NYPD custody. So far, the NYPD has made no attempt to remove Occupiers or prevent them from sleeping in the park.
Occupy Long Beach is defending the mother's home. For more information, click here.
Cecily McMillan, an Occupy Wall Street activist once profiled in Rolling Stone, suffered a seizure Saturday night during protest action near Zuccotti Park. Many on-scene reported Ms. McMillan had trouble breathing after she was tackled and handcuffed by law enforcement.
A video uploaded to Youtube late Saturday night purports to show the attack. Two women can be heard commenting, “There’s Cecily,” then there is confusion as the police clearly perform a violent take-down on someone in the crowd.
According to Jeff Sharlet’s November, 2011 article about the Occupy Movement, this may be Ms. McMillan’s second violent encounter with police.
To read the full story, go here.
Cops caught on video about 10 seconds in taking down the woman who had the apparent seizure:
Watch video from inside Zuccotti Park as police moved in late last night:
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The paper reports from last night's chaos at Zuccotti Park:
At one point, a woman who appeared to be suffering from seizures flopped on the ground in handcuffs as bystanders shouted for the police to remove the cuffs and provide medical attention. For several minutes the woman lay on the ground as onlookers made increasingly agonized demands until an ambulance arrived and the woman was placed inside.
By 12:20 a.m., a line of officers pushed against some of the remaining protesters, forcing them south on Broadway, at times swinging batons and shoving people to the ground.
Kobi Skolnick, 30, said that officers pushed him in several directions and that as he tried to walk away, he was struck from behind in the neck. “One of the police ran and hit me with a baton,” he said.
To read the full story, go here.
|@ Greg_Palast : Our photographer ZD Roberts beaten @OWS Zucotti Park by cops. Thrown to ground, hair grabbd, hit with clubs while yelling, I'M PRESS PRESS!|
|@ macfathom : Doubling east on Barclay, and now the ragged front of the march is at City Hall. #OWS|
|@ LuddoftheFuture : girl in the street having a seizure and the cops have her in handcuffs. can this get any worse (live at http://t.co/4pLyy3gP)|
Activists cry out for paramedics. The woman is limp on the ground. "Come on you violent bastards where's the paramedics?"
|@ jeffrae : March is heading north up broadway #ows #occupywallstreet|
|@ macfathom : Dozens of arrests, many cuffed and sitting on broadway waiting for their ride to jail. #OWS|
|@ RDevro : Police are barricading the park. It's cleared. I witnessed countless violent arrests. No way to estimate numbers.|
Cops pulling apart human chains. There are shouts for mic checks. Now, chants start forming. "The NYPD are sweeping through," says Tim on the live stream.
|@ ANIMALNewYork : NYPD just made an announcement that Brookfield has to "clean the park" and Liberty Plaza is officially "closed."|
|@ OccupyWallStNYC : Bagpipers just started marching into the park bringing the party mood with them, NYPD arrested one of them, and things got real heated. #OWS|
|@ JackieHRye : NYPD just "destroyed" the tent in Zuccotti Park, Occupiers call for its re-building. Marching band also going through the park. #OWS|
|@ RDevro : The tent in the middle of the park continues to fill with people planning to stay the night. Lots of energy here.|
Activists ask for more room as the tent is growing, expanding.
"It looks like a floating tent." -- as Tim on his live stream.
|@ OccupyWallStNYC : .@justawall is leading us in a song! "Hit the road, banks! And don't ya come back no more no more no more no more!" #OWS|
Activists have assembled make-shift, cardboard sleeping areas inside Zuccotti Park. The cardboard is joined by a large green tarp.