Committee Denies Public Space for Occupy Raleigh

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Occupy Raleigh protesters might be spending more time on the sidewalk after members of a city committee denied the group’s request for use of a city-owned park.

Members unanimously voted Tuesday against the use of a public facility for overnight camping and encouraged the group to seek a privately-owned location.

Raleigh’s Occupy protest is part of a national movement of 24-hour protests that began with Occupy Wall Street in New York. Since Oct. 15, Occupy Raleigh has set up a small encampment on the sidewalk along Morgan Street aside the Old State Capitol building. Twenty-eight people have been arrested since the protest began in Raleigh, first for refusing to leave Capitol grounds during the initial protest, then for refusing to get out of chairs on the sidewalk two weeks ago.

Mayor-elect Nancy McFarlane has been working behind the scenes to find a suitable location for the group that is not on public property, according to Councilor Mary-Ann Baldwin, who chairs the council’s Law and Public Safety Committee.

The city council will vote on the recommendation at its next meeting Nov. 15.

“I’m disappointed with not getting public property,” said Joseph Huberman, the official spokesman for Occupy Raleigh. “But I’m encouraged that the mayor elect thinks that it’s important that we have a space and that she’s going out of her way personally to help negotiate a space for us to be in.”

Huberman said efforts to find a private location have been unsuccessful.

Members of the movement were asking for the use of a small park behind the municipal center between Dawson Street and the parking deck, at the intersection of Morgan Street. The park was to serve as a place to eat, sleep and use the bathroom with the use of a portable toilet.

The group also wanted access to a electrical outlet and the municipal building’s rotunda for shelter during inclement weather.

Concerns of Violence
One reason for the denial is fear of crime activity. Violence has escalated in some Occupy cities, such as Oakland, Calif.

Raleigh Resident Amanda Nixon attended Tuesday’s meeting to oppose allowing the protestors to set up camp on city property. Nixon said that she witnessed significant violence around the Occupy protest in Washington, D.C.

But, she said she felt members of the Occupy Raleigh movement are mostly upstanding citizens. Her fear, she said, is when the movement grows.

Huberman said he is disappointed to hear fear from residents.

“We need to work with the community so that we can eliminate these unfounded fears that were expressed today,” he said.

Protester Kurt Zehnden, who has been sleeping on the sidewalk, said he has witnessed very few problems. He recounted one incident late at night involving a small group of Marines who approached the group. No violence resulted from the altercation because of how protesters handled themselves, he said.

“We’ve been peaceful,” said Zehnden, a waiter at a local restaurant.

He said the group’s willingness to cooperate with city and police officers demonstrates their interest in behaving as good neighbors.

Cost Concerns
The other concern brought up during the meeting is the cost associated with the use of public facilities. Assistant City Manager Daniel Howe said the city has spent $61,000 to pay police since the protest began on Oct. 15 in front of the Capitol building. Howe also said he no longer felt there was a need for such a high level of coverage by officers.

Twenty-four hour security would cost the city about $500 a day, using the city’s private security firm. If the city were to use Raleigh police officers, it would cost between $400 and $800 per day.

The city already allows any group to protest on city sidewalks and in city parks, but the issue is the overnight stay.

Legal Concerns
City-run parks in Raleigh generally close at dusk and don’t allow overnight camping, with the exception of Durant Nature Park, which has overnight facilities. These facilities are used on a rental basis.

 

If the city were to allow the use of the park, it would require a change of city policy and a rental fee schedule would have to be put in place. Renters would also have to provide liability insurance.

While the municipal building is a public facility and holds public meetings, the building is not accessible by the public at all hours for security reasons. Allowing the group to use the building would also require a change of city policy.

If the city changed the policy based on First Amendment rights, Howe said, “it would be virtually impossible to reverse.”

Councilor John Odom said that he felt there were enough rules in place to make it possible for the group to express their right to freedom of speech, but said that allowing a group to occupy it in this manner would be a big mistake.

He added that of the 1,300 people that signed a petition for the space, only 216 of them lived in Raleigh.

Most protesters were working during Tuesday’s 9 a.m. meeting and unable to attend. Huberman said he will present the news to the Occupy group tonight for discussion.

“I think it was fear,” Huberman said of the reason for the outcome. “I think it was fear about what would happen in the future, fear about what is happening in other places and I think fear generates more fear.”

19 thoughts on “Committee Denies Public Space for Occupy Raleigh

  1. Please note: There has never been a consensus from the Occupy Raleigh General Assembly to move the Occupation to a private space.

  2. John Odum, please understand that the people who signed the petition are all local supporters of Occupy Raleigh. My address may be in Cary, but I attend the occupy site at least 5 times a week for several hours each day. Many of us live in the surrounding suburbs of Raleigh. Even though our address may be Clayton or Wake Forest, we are part of the Raleigh movement. And our signatures on the petition are just as valid as those who live inside the city limits of Raleigh. Thank you.

  3. State Capital Police: Tell all of these anarchists to get off of all state property including the sidewalk, and if they refuse teargas them, and then arrest them !

    and take away the children from them (jes) , adopting them out to god-fearing families

  4. Derek, I am not a hippie. I am a 59 year old lady with a job, an education, and a voter registration card in my wallet. I am not from New York. I am a 12th generation North Carolinian. My ancestors came to this country in 1654, over one hundred years prior to the Declaration of Independence, and migrated from Virginia to NC in the early 1700s. I have lived my entire life in NC, and have been living and working and paying taxes in Raleigh since 1970. Don’t tell me to go home. Thank you

  5. Teargas Lynn DuPree, as she is a Oakland anarchist that wants to tear down all government (US,State,County,City/Town) via any means – including any violent means as evidented in the Oakland Riots !!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Bill, police violence has never solved anything. The concept of peaceful protest is part of our American heritage, and the local police have been very polite and helpful to our movement. We have invited a number of them to join us for coffee and donuts, and I have personally sat with some of the police at a nearby coffee shop and had a very nice conversation with them. We are not anarchists. We are civil protestors. It is our right, and we believe it is our duty. Look it up. It’s called the First Amendment.

    The Raleigh police force have in fact protected us on occasion, from potentially dangerous situations involving people who might be violent towards us. Thats’ their job. And if they also on occasion, have to arrest some of us for civil disobediance, we understand that is their job. And they understand this is our job. No hard feelings.

    As far as your comment that you believe our children should be taken away and “adopted out to god-fearing families” – this is too rediculous a comment to even be considered. We have very spicific laws about the rights that parents have to raise their children the way they see fit. This is one of our most basic rights as Americans.

    We will continue to be visible in downtown Raleigh. I hope you will reconsider your opinion that we should be tear-gassed.

  7. Mary, please read my previous posts about my place of origin. I am not from Oakland, I have lived in Raleigh and paid taxes in Raleigh for over 40 years. I will continue to exercize my First Amendment rights. Please reconsider your opinion that I should be tear-gassed for standing peacefully on the sidewalk with a sign. Let’s try to remain calm.

  8. The protesters, police, and city council have all been civil in their dealings. Although there have been arrests, the police have not been violent. This does not mean, however, that rights are not being violated. This group has a first amendment right to assemble and make their views known in a way that will shift the consciousness of people. The City Council, the Governor, and their police forces are repressing dissent. This repression, while coming along with good manners and politeness, is repression nonetheless. It is my hope that America will become more “American” by shifting toward an environment where everyone’s rights are protected, not just those of corporations and those with corporate sponsorship. Perhaps our governmental leaders should start wearing jumpsuits identifying their corporate sponsors the way race car drivers do.
    Shiva

  9. Quote “As far as your comment that you believe our children should be taken away and “adopted out to god-fearing families” – this is too rediculous a comment to even be considered. We have very spicific laws about the rights that parents have to raise their children the way they see fit. This is one of our most basic rights as Americans.” unquote:

    in responce if you (jes) brainwash and/or place your children in danger (re a Oakland type situation) then YES then it is the government’s job to take them away:

    Protest all you want, but leave the children at home untill they are old enough to make (legaly) the desision to attend the protest themselves (~16+ yrs old)

  10. Is not daylight protesting enough, why camp overnight thus destroying the NC capital grounds ?

  11. Enough is Enough…. The protesters have had their say – the politicians have not noticed and neither have the media in any meaningful way…. Constitutional Rights are afforded to every citizen and legal resident of our country – however they do not trump the rights of others nor do they allow illegal activity.

    I rarely agree with Mr. Odom on most items – but he has it right – if only a small fraction of the petition signers are residents of Raleigh – this is a valid point – The City of Raleigh (and by extension the residents) are paying for the security and whatever else is needed or will be needed for this encampment – not other municipalities – dont like it – go protest in Cary! I can guarantee you the Keystone Cops of Cary will not be so kind and professional….

  12. @Mary Stephenson: “Protest all you want, but leave the children at home untill they are old enough to make (legaly) the desision to attend the protest themselves (~16+ yrs old)” [sic]

    I feel the same way about churches.

    These people are from all walks of life, and are simply trying to draw attention to the fact that Congress is beholden to big business, and the laws have been rewritten to favor the rich. Bringing these imbalances to light isn’t class warfare, nor is it a bunch of hippies promoting socialism. People on all sides agree, Congress needs fixing.

    http://www.alternet.org/economy/152621/if_top_1_hadn%27t_ripped_off_trillions%2C_you%27d_likely_be_making_thousands_of_dollars_more_right_now/?page=entire

    People will continue to choose ignorance, though. How can any reasonable person be in favor of a flat tax? Woah! Now our “entitlements” (that we’ve all PAID for, by the way) are costing the middle class too much! Maybe we can close the gap by shutting down some schools, free clinics and libraries, cancel some pensions, privatize Social Security, ban collective bargaining, and abolish even more regulations so Wall St can create more jobs. That should even things out and set us up for success.