11/19/2011

At a glance: The latest in the Occupy protests

By Associated Press

CALIFORNIA — San Francisco's public health department has declared the Occupy San Francisco encampment in Justin Herman Plaza a public health nuisance. But city authorities are so far allowing the demonstrators to remain in the plaza despite making their declaration Thursday. Barbara Garcia, head of the city's public health department, said the grassy area being used by the campers has been found to contain feces and have inadequate toilet facilities. Conditions for the spread of respiratory illnesses have also been present. Protesters feared that they would be evicted overnight, but the camp was not raided.

In Los Angeles, an Occupy LA activist who filed for a court order to prevent the city from dismantling the 475-tent camp around City Hall without notifying campers has not shown up for a scheduled court hearing, and no action was taken. City attorney's spokesman John Franklin said Friday city lawyers were ready to argue against the application for a temporary restraining order, but the activist did not appear in Superior Court. Occupy LA spokeswoman Pam Noles says the court filing was unauthorized and organizers are trying to find out who did it. Police have told organizers that no attempt to dismantle the camp would be taken without ample notice.

INDIANA — State officials have cleared most of the Occupy Indy encampment from the Indiana Statehouse lawn. Department of Administration Commissioner Rob Wynkoop says that the small band of protesters had cleared most of its camping gear on Thursday but that more items were added overnight and he ordered the site cleared before dawn Friday. Protester Greg Lambert of Indianapolis says he and others are "furious." State workers removed two tables and an American flag on Friday but left a few camping chairs. Protesters say the workers also took their protest signs but Wynkoop said he hadn't heard about that.

MASSACHUSETTS — The nonprofit organization that oversees the site of the Occupy Boston encampment wants the protesters out. The chairwoman of the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy's board says in a Tuesday letter to Mayor Thomas Menino that demonstrators have prevented the general public from enjoying Dewey Square Park and forced the cancellation of other events scheduled for the site, including an Oct. 15 food festival. The Boston Globe (http://b.globe.com/sQjCYb) reports that Chairwoman Georgia Murray also wrote that sanitary conditions have worsened, farmers selling food in the area have seen sales decline because of "noise, odors, and interference" from demonstrators, and the camp has shown "disturbing signs of drug dealing." A Menino spokeswoman says the administration is monitoring the situation and there are no current plans to forcibly evict the protesters.

NEW YORK — New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is arguing that the several thousand protesters who marched over the Brooklyn Bridge Thursday don't really represent Occupy Wall Street. The mayor said in his weekly WOR Radio show Friday that "a vast percentage" of the marchers were union members who "had organized signs and leadership." Bloomberg said the protest "was just an opportunity for a bunch of unions to complain or to protest, or whatever they want to do." The mayor also said that of the roughly 250 people who were arrested in Thursday's protests, three were charged with felonies.

A 20-year-old Occupy Wall Street protester bloodied after a confrontation with New York City police has pleaded not guilty grand larceny and other charges. A lawyer for Brandon Watts said Friday his client was assaulted by police and has four staples in his scalp because of his injuries. Police say Watts may have been injured in a fall during the confrontation. They say he threw batteries at officers, and then stole an officer's hat. Watts has been arrested five times since the protest began two months ago. He has been living on his own since his early teens and has emotional problems, his lawyer said.

OREGON — As many as 300 Occupy Eugene protesters spent an afternoon demonstrating at bank offices, and 17 were arrested. Members of the group told police in advance Thursday they were planning civil disobedience, and the police told bankers they wouldn't move against the protesters unless people refused to move on when asked. The Eugene Register-Guard reported ( http://bit.ly/vL55zP) that arrests, mostly for trespassing, were made at two bank offices, Bank of America and Chase, but not at three others. One person was charged with resisting arrest. Most of the banks managed to carry on at least some customer business during the protest.

PENNSYLVANIA — Protesters with Occupy Philadelphia were working Friday to get permits for a new site after they were rebuffed in their attempt to move from the City Hall plaza where they have been camped since early October. The city has asked the protesters to move to make way for a long-planned $50 million renovation of their current home, Dilworth Plaza. After a vote Thursday, protesters began packing up their approximately 350 tents and moving across the street to another plaza. But they were rebuffed by police because they didn't have a permit for the new location. A spokesman for Mayor Michael Nutter said the city had received one permit application and was reviewing it, a process that could take until early next week.

In Harrisburg, public works employees have confiscated the tents of Occupy Harrisburg protesters at a park near the state Capitol. A spokesman for Mayor Linda Thompson says the tent removal at Riverfront Park began around 1:30 p.m. after the mayor issued a two-hour warning. Spokesman Robert Philbin says protesters are free to be at the park without tents until 10 p.m. and that the city is trying to find a vacant private property in the city where they can protest with tents. Jefferson Pepper, an Occupy Harrisburg organizer, says 10 to 20 people have been protesting at the park in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street in New York.

Earlier Friday, Occupy Harrisburg protesters delayed the start of a hearing on a plan to redraw the boundaries of Pennsylvania's legislative districts by chanting and clapping for about 40 minutes. Just as the Legislative Reapportionment Commission prepared to open the hearing, about two dozen activists began a loud call-and-response chant that drowned out the chairman's attempts to restore order. They took turns shouting slogans such as "We are the 99 percent!" and "This is what democracy looks like!" The protesters left after hearing reports that the city was trying to shut down their base at the foot of the Capitol steps.

TENNESSEE — A group of Occupy Nashville protesters disrupted a discussion with former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld about his memoir, "Known and Unknown," and were ejected by security. The group says in a press release that an anonymous donor purchased four $125-a-plate dinners that allowed protesters to enter the Thursday night event, which was sponsored by the conservative Washington think tank the Heritage Foundation at a downtown Nashville hotel. They mingled with the crowd before standing up, one by one, and accusing Rumsfeld of being a war criminal. They also suggested Rumsfeld should go outside and submit to a citizen's arrest. Heritage spokesman Matthew Streit confirmed that four protesters caused what he called a "brief interruption" of the discussion.

TEXAS — Police say five people have been arrested after chaining themselves to a tree and refusing to leave during an Occupy Austin protest. Police Chief Art Acevedo says a sixth person chained to the tree Thursday night agreed to leave peacefully and was not detained. Austin officials have asked protesters to move from a public plaza several nights a week, so the area can be cleaned. Police say several who hooked themselves to a tree declined to move around 11 p.m. Thursday and were arrested on criminal trespass charges. No injuries have been reported.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press

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