Nineteen Occupy Raleigh participants were charged with second degree trespassing Saturday night at the State Capitol grounds after an earlier rally event, according to Raleigh Police Department Director of Public Affairs Jim Sughrue.
Sughrue said another individual, Margaret Earls, was arrested about two hours later because she tried to enter the Capitol grounds after she was told they were closed.
The arrests came after an Occupy Raleigh rally earlier in the day. Hundreds attended the event on the Capitol grounds, which featured speeches, musicians, a soapbox speaking session for attendees and a march down Fayetteville Street.
Similar “Occupy” events also took place in cities nationwide. The series of demonstrations began in New York City, where people began protesting corporate greed, economic inequality and the government’s lack of action.
Raleigh’s event began at 11 a.m. Demonstrators had a permit to remain on the grounds until 3 p.m.
Sughrue said the arrests were made around 7:30 p.m. “after a state official asked the event participants to leave the Capitol grounds and after the remaining individuals were advised they would be arrested if they did not leave.”
Of the 23 who stayed on the Capitol’s grounds, 19 were charged.
Police first announced the occupiers could stay on the grounds if they removed any protesting paraphernalia. A few minutes later, police said they needed to leave or be charged with trespassing.
Sughure said the arrests were made by Raleigh police who were assisting State Capitol police.
Police also gave occupiers the option to picket legally on the sidewalk, many of whom did.
Bobby McDonald, an occupier who stayed on the sidewalk, said to his knowledge, city police had no problem with them staying due to the fact that it is state property.
McDonald said state police were the one that arrested the group, but that city police were there as well.
McDonald also said that he asked the police officer who ordered the group off of the property was the charges were, but that the officer would not tell him.
“He just wouldn’t talk to me,” McDonald said. “He said, ‘I told you to leave; you have to leave.’”
McDonald said there was a group that decided that “they were going to stay regardless of what the police said,” but that throughout the day, occupiers “were told different things by different police officers and the police liaisons were getting different information.”
“So, originally, we were told we could stay if we were quiet and removed all of the signs, that wouldn’t be counted as protesting. We did that, and they still got on the megaphone and said, ‘You all have got to leave,’” McDonald said.
Sughrue said he did not know anything about the mixed messages that the protestors were receiving.
An attempt to contact the State Capitol Police Administration Sunday was unsuccessful.