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Occupy Orange County protesters have permission to camp for at least two more weeks on the Irvine Civic Center lawn, as the Irvine City Council unanimously approved a renewal of the camping agreement with protesters Tuesday.
The Occupy protest has been at the corner of Alton Parkway and Harvard since Oct. 14. A second extension of their camping agreement with the city was set to expire Wednesday. A two-member council committee officially renewed the agreement.
Protesters faced resistance to their all-day presence from local residents, who complained about noise from honking motorists. The city hoisted signs asking motorists not to honk, but residents insisted that the noise continues.
“I have insomnia. It’s just reducing my quality of life,” said David Chen, a resident who said he lives near the protest site.
The Irvine Occupy encampment is 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.
But New York police last week raided the Occupy Wall Street encampment at New York’s Zuccotti Park, effectively ending their all-day presence there and clearing the rows of tents that have become symbolic of the movement. Some Occupy protests, like those in Oakland, turned violent. Protesters at UC Davis were doused with pepper spray by police.
Councilman Larry Agran, a member of the subcommittee negotiating the renewal of the camping agreement, said it is important to avoid police brutality and violent protest in Irvine. He also said that he supported many of the ideas being expressed by the protesters.
“What went on at Davis is just outrageous,” Agran said. “This is potentially a difficult and even volatile situation.”
Council members expressed support for the protesters’ right to assemble, but also brought up concerns from local residents.
“I apologize,” said Councilman Jeffrey Lalloway in response to concerns from residents. “I don’t think we did take your interests at heart, and I do apologize for not doing that, but here we are now, we’re trying to figure this out.”
Assistant City Manager Sharon Landers said that protesters had fulfilled the terms laid out in the agreement, including vacating the Civic Center corner for regular maintenance. Nonetheless, there was one report of rodents at the site, and the grass has nearly disappeared, Landers said.
Councilman Steven Choi said that protesters should provide a deadline to end their encampment. He questioned whether the Occupy protest has changed policymaking in Washington.
“By occupying and continuing your difficult lifestyle outside on the grass and the sidewalk, does the president, Washington, D.C., or Congress, are they doing something different?” Choi asked.
One protester at the meeting had a quick answer for Choi: “They will. Give it time.”
— ADAM ELMAHREK
Correction: A previous headline on this story incorrectly stated the Irvine had given the Occupy protesters a two-week notice to leave. We regret the error.