Occupy Raleigh’s request for a two-week, renewable permit to camp on city property is delayed for at least another week as the City Council moved the issue to its Law and Public Safety Committee.
Joseph Huberman, a Raleigh resident who was chosen to speak at the meeting by the Occupy Raleigh group, said they wanted a permit to “occupy the small park behind the municipal center between Dawson Street and the parking deck, at the intersection with Morgan Street.”
Occupy Raleigh has been protesting in front of the Capitol building since Oct. 15. The group is part of a national Occupy movement, which started on Wall Street. They are protesting against a variety of issues such as corporate personhood and eliminating money from the political process.
Huberman said the area will be used “for people to have shelter, eat and sleep and keep items we need to support the occupation, including a portable toilet.”
Huberman also requested the use of an electrical outlet for charging electronics to “maintain communication,” as well as “occasional use” of the circular area beneath the municipal building “for meetings and shelter in inclement weather.” He also said they would continue protesting in front of the old Capitol building.
City Attorney Thomas McCormick said picketing is allowed “24 hours a day, seven days a week” anywhere in Raleigh.
McCormick said there is “ample opportunity to exercise First Amendment rights” in the city, but if the city opened up areas like Upchurch Park and the rotunda underneath the municipal building to the group, they would not be able to exclude other groups from doing the same.
Mayor Charles Meeker asked McCormick if they can possibly speak with another landowner nearby about using space, to which McCormick said, “Yes.”
McCormick said there are also other ordinances that might “come into play” that don’t have to do with picketing or free speech, such as those against as blocking the sidewalk.
Questions about arrests
During the City Council’s afternoon session, Meeker requested a report on Thursday’s arrests.
Eight people were arrested on the sidewalk in front of the Capitol building for refusing to stand. One was a disabled woman sitting in a lawn chair on the sidewalk.
He asked for clarification on why the Police Department’s stance on chairs and blankets had changed, what the circumstances were regarding the arrest of a disabled woman and what the city’s legal obligations were in terms of assisting the Capital Area police.
City Manager Russell Allen said the state would have to answer the question about the change in stance.
“We know what has been communicated to us, but they would need to answer that directly,” Allen said.
“It is my understanding that the state Department of Administration and the Capital police did believe that the accumulation of gear, other things—tables, chairs—was creating a pedestrian hazard, was beginning to block the street, even though it was only covering half, that it was creating a condition that exceeded what they thought was reasonable for assembly and public protest,” Allen said.
Meeker didn’t believe a report on police conduct was needed because, after viewing a video of the arrests, he thought “our police and Capital police were acting most professionally.”