Tuesday, January 31, 2012

City leaders and police make occupying Charlotte much more complicated

Posted By on Tue, Jan 31, 2012 at 11:17 AM

CMPD Capt. Jeff Estes squares off with longtime occupier Ayende Alcala (left)
How things change in a matter of hours.

When CL's print issue went to bed Monday afternoon, police had visited the Occupy Charlotte campsite earlier in the day for a relatively casual chat with campers about their imminent eviction from the Old City Hall grounds on East Trade Street. Within an hour after CL's deadline, some 60 officers moved on to the site and several protesters began practicing the civil disobedience they'd trained for over the weekend. Seven people were arrested.

This morning, police returned to the scene, making it clear that protesting at Old City Hall will no longer be easy or laid back. Charlotte law enforcement aims to take seriously the new city ordinances banning camping and making demonstrations as complicated as possible.

The Charlotte Observer reported on the latest developments earlier today:

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police returned to the Occupy Charlotte site before daybreak Tuesday, awakening and evicting several protesters who were sleeping on the lawn of the old City Hall overnight.

According to several reports from the scene, about a half-dozen patrol cars arrived about 6:15 a.m. Tuesday and aimed their spotlights on the front lawn, where police had evicted dozens of protesters and torn down at least 30 tents Monday afternoon.

After awakening the Occupy Charlotte participants with their floodlights, police officers walked onto the lawn and ordered the protesters to leave. There appeared to be no arrests, unlike Monday, when seven Occupy Charlotte members were charged with misdemeanors.

And here's the Observer's account of what happened after CL's print deadline on Monday:

A group of about 60 Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers walked across East Trade Street shortly after 2:45 p.m. Monday, moments after Capt. Jeff Estes had given Occupy Charlotte members "one final warning" to take down their tents and comply with the new ordinance, which prohibits living in tents on city property.

With protesters surrounding officers and shouting "Shame!" and "Arrest us! We'll multiply," police began taking down the tents and tossing them into waiting garbage trucks.

Six people locked legs on the ground and refused to move. Police separated them and led some away in handcuffs. All of those arrested were charged with obstructing and delaying officers.

By 3:45 p.m., all of the nearly 40 tents were gone. Twenty protesters regrouped under the movement's information tent, which police said did not violate the new ordinance.

Police Capt. Jeff Estes said seven people were arrested on charges of delaying and obstructing officers, a misdemeanor.

Read the entire story here

Protesters have made clear that they won't take the new ordinances lying down. A lawyer representing the group immediately filed a lawsuit on First Amendment grounds, saying the new city ordinances violate free speech privileges as well as the N.C. Constitution.

This story is far from over.

(See photographer Grant Baldwin's photo essay on the Occupy Charlotte eviction at CLTBlog.com.)

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