Occupy Protestors Fighting City Halls Over Camping

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The occupy movement is fighting local city halls.

On Monday, a small group of Occupy Santa Ana protestors lobbied the Santa Ana City Council for permission to camp at the Civic Center, demanding that the city respect their First Amendment rights.

The protestors have been told that city code prohibits camping at the Civic Center, but protestors argued that their constitutional rights to assembly and free speech override city laws.

“I would like to stress that the rights to occupy the common ground of Santa Ana must supersede city codes,” said artist Theo Hirsch. “I believe if you care about your people you will back us up 100 percent.”

The Santa Ana protest, scheduled for Oct. 22, would be in solidarity with the occupy movement, a growing international show of anger at what protestors say is increasing wealth disparity and corporate greed. The movement started as a protest camp in New York’s financial district and has led to protests in cities worldwide.

In Irvine, an Occupy OC demonstration has been continuously protesting in front of City Hall since Saturday morning. They want to spend nights on the grass in front of the City Hall complex, but police have asked them to leave each night at 10 p.m. in accordance with park closing hours.

Around 20 protesters have been demonstrating through the night on the adjacent sidewalk until the lawn opens again at 6 a.m.

Julia Engen, an Irvine police spokeswoman, said demonstrators could get permission to spend the night on the lawn if they apply for a special use permit or facilities use permit.

When asked why they haven’t applied, demonstrators said the application requires a $1-million insurance policy and only one person can sign the form.

While the demonstrators say they’ve been told by police not to sleep on the sidewalk, in practice the officers have taken a relaxed approach to enforcement.

In Santa Ana, Councilman David Benavides, the only council member to comment on the protestors’ request during the meeting, said he would like to see the city and protestors work together, but he stopped short of calling on police officers to allow camping.

“I strongly believe that to the extent that we can work with folks who organize and exercise their freedom of speech, liberties and who participate in democracy, I think that’s a positive thing,” Benavides said. “We’re negatively impacted as a country, as a community, when we see apathy.”

— ADAM ELMAHREK and NICK GERDA

 

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