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Dozens Arrested As Police Break Up ‘Occupy’ Tent City Again

Above: Occupy San Diego protesters regroup in front of a Wells Fargo bank in downtown San Diego after police forced them to leave Civic Center Plaza, October 28, 2011.

A legion of officers in riot gear cleared Occupy San Diego protesters out of their unauthorized urban squatters' camp at Civic Center Plaza early today, arresting dozens of activists who refused to cooperate with the predawn expulsion.

Police in riot gear break up Occupy San Diego protesters at the San Diego Civ...
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Above: Police in riot gear break up Occupy San Diego protesters at the San Diego Civic Center Plaza on Oct. 28, 2011.

Occupy San Diego protesters regroup in downtown San Diego, October 28, 2011.
Enlarge this image

Above: Occupy San Diego protesters regroup in downtown San Diego, October 28, 2011.

The dismantling of the downtown tent community, deemed an unlawful assembly by the city, began about 2 a.m. and lasted roughly 45 minutes, according to San Diego police. There were no reports injuries as 40 people were taken into custody, though two of the detainees resisted and had to be forcibly subdued, SDPD public affairs Lt. Andra Brown said.

During the sweep, overseen by SDPD Chief William Lansdowne and his highest-ranking commanders, some of the demonstrators relocated south to Children's Park. Since that recreation area is closed between midnight and 6 a.m., officers cleared it, as well, taking 11 more people into custody in the process.

Participants in the three-week-old rally -- part of a loose-knit nationwide movement against perceived corporate greed and government corruption -- reassembled later in the morning for a solidarity march. They wound up at SDPD headquarters on Broadway just as a news conference on the morning's events was getting under way.

Addressing reporters inside a conference room, Assistant Police Chief Boyd Long explained the reasons behind the crackdown to the sounds of dozens of protesters chanting and beating drums in an adjacent courtyard. Among the slogans shouted by the group was "Let them out!'', referring to their jailed comrades.

Those arrested -- 37 men and 14 women, ranging in age from 18 to 50 -- will face charges of illegal lodging, unlawful assembly, resisting police and encroachment on public property, Long said.

"The department supports the rights of those who choose to peacefully protest,'' he said. "However, we must balance those rights to (ensure) that they do not impede upon the rights of others or allow for violations of the law.''

As the downtown encampment persisted in recent days despite clean-up orders, city officials deemed it a public nuisance.

"We'd received complaints from the (concourse) facility staff regarding human and animal feces, urination, drug use, littering and damage to city property,'' Long said.

The police personnel who showed up at the civic center en masse this morning gave the demonstrators ample opportunity to remove their possessions, and most of the campers complied, according to the assistant chief.

"Officers then began moving slowly across the plaza, providing an exit for those wishing to leave,'' he said.

Long discounted reports that police had stepped on or walked over a tent while demonstrators slept inside.

"That is not true, to my knowledge,'' he said. "The chief, I and other members of the command staff were watching the entire event. Those officers were slow; they were methodical.''

Mayor Jerry Sanders praised the police department's handling of the volatile situation.

"I thought our officers did an excellent job," he said.

Regarding the timing of the sweep, the mayor said Lansdowne and his assistants appeared to have chosen the dead of night as "the least confrontational time.''

"We don't care if (the demonstrators) go anywhere,'' he said. "They have a legitimate right to protest wherever they want. They just have to follow the guidelines.''

Noting that the squatters had been asked dozens of times, in a non-confrontational manner, to remove their shelters and other trappings from the plaza, Sanders said the lingering assembly had raised safety concerns as well as potential sanitary problems.

"They shouldn't have been shocked that this happened,'' he said.

Occupy San Diego members will be free to return to the concourse as long as they do not set up camp again, Long said.

Shortly after daybreak, workers began giving the concourse a thorough cleaning as a group of protesters watched from the nearby corner of Third Avenue and B Street, standing behind a row of police officers. As the crew used powerful hoses to spray down the courtyard, one of ousted demonstrators yelled, "Thank you for washing my house!''

Protesters first converged on the plaza Oct. 7 to take their stand against purported misdeeds of banks, corporations and politicians. The movement began in New York last month and has since spread nationwide.

The local rally has been largely free of confrontation, with the exception of an Oct. 14 scuffle during which officers pepper-sprayed about a half-dozen protesters and arrested two of them while clearing camping gear from the public space next to City Hall.

In defiance of city officials' orders to keep the concourse clear of personal items, demonstrators began erecting tents there again earlier this week.

Participants in the ongoing rally have vowed to remain in the downtown area until their demands -- including meaningful action addressing joblessness, poverty and political corruption -- are met or at least sincerely considered.

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Avatar for user 'tumblewind'

tumblewind | October 28, 2011 at 8:14 a.m. ― 5 years, 5 months ago

and they are going to know their lofty demands have been "sincerely considered" how and by whom. I'm considering those things all the time.

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Avatar for user 'VerbalRemedy'

VerbalRemedy | October 28, 2011 at 9:19 a.m. ― 5 years, 5 months ago

There is no "until officials get tired of seeing and hearing them" clause in the 1st Amendment's enumeration of the right to peaceably assemble.

In light of that inconvenient fact, how exactly can a peaceable assembly be declared unlawful?

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Avatar for user 'JulieNadine'

JulieNadine | October 28, 2011 at 12:08 p.m. ― 5 years, 5 months ago

VerbalRemedy hit the nail on the head.

Also, since the 1st Amendment says"...and to petition the government for redress of grievances" it is obvious the writers knew the government might not always appreciate what those assembling would have to say.

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Avatar for user 'Caroline'

Caroline | October 28, 2011 at 12:34 p.m. ― 5 years, 5 months ago

The world is watching. Regardless of the excuses used for the policing behavior, regardless of the laws put forth as being broken, it looks like repression of free speech - in America the home of the Free... Raiding the Civic Center Plaza in the middle of the night in riot gear, arresting people on a Friday to guarantee holding them for several days, and confiscating media equipment (including books) is police repression. In this case it is clearly fully supported by the City Government. Beating people, pepper spraying them, arresting them, destroying their property - how far will this City Government go to repress the 99%?

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Avatar for user 'GailDana'

GailDana | October 28, 2011 at 12:40 p.m. ― 5 years, 5 months ago

Where were our city leaders in the 60's? Don't they know this same kind of action caused an entire generation to turn against police?

Last week I stopped by a table where two police officer were having lunch, and said "Thanks for your service" -- much like people do for soldiers. Today I would NOT do that.

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Avatar for user 'mccolgan55'

mccolgan55 | October 28, 2011 at 1:26 p.m. ― 5 years, 5 months ago

Right to free speech and assembly does NOT including sleeping and defecating in the Civic Center Plaza. These people should have gone home every night and come back DURING THE DAY to conduct their assembly and free speech. There is nothing in the constitution that allows this. They were told not to sleep there numerous times and chose to ignore it.

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Avatar for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | October 28, 2011 at 3:08 p.m. ― 5 years, 5 months ago

I have no problem whatsoever with police enforcement of municipal code. It's hard to argue against it. However, can you imagine the uproar if these arrests had occurred in Egypt, Iran or Syria? We would've decried those governments as savage, backwards and undemocratic. We would've mobilized our embassies and started a psy-ops campaign to depose those governments faster than you can say "freedom is on the march."

In all fairness, is there another nation more hypocritical than ours? Say what you want about China, they don't go around preaching totalitarian communism abroad only to practice democracy at home.

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Avatar for user 'Caroline'

Caroline | October 28, 2011 at 5:49 p.m. ― 5 years, 5 months ago

Had the municipal code been enforced in the light of day, it would have been hard to argue against the action taken by the City. But it wasn't. Under cover of darkness, away from the glare of the lights of reporters and other witnesses, armed police cleared a sleeping group of peaceful citizens. Legitimate action doesn't need to be concealed.

By definition, protest is enacted against the rules. It is up to the people in power to decide how to respond to such protest. Either those in power recognize the right of the People to object to the current status quo, in this case occupy property paid by taxes collected from these very people, or those in power violently suppress the protest by the People. Clearly the City of San Diego, as represented by Mayor Jerry (I'll accept that award on your behalf) Sanders has happily decided to violently suppress peaceful demonstrations by the People of San Diego.

Violence begets violence. This is not over.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | October 28, 2011 at 8:24 p.m. ― 5 years, 5 months ago

Watch out Government and San Diego Police.

When you turn on the majority, you don't last too long.

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Avatar for user 'HarryStreet'

HarryStreet | October 29, 2011 at 5:53 p.m. ― 5 years, 4 months ago

Looks like the Syrian Government isn't the only one wondering how to deal with internal problems. I'm sure they're enjoying our display of American satisfaction.

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | October 31, 2011 at 7:52 a.m. ― 5 years, 4 months ago

Caroline, Julie and Verbal, please note that the full text of A1 is
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
The subject in this sentence is the US legislature. It is not clear that congress has passed any such law.
Even if this is extended to all levels of government, some reasonable limits must be enforced. E.g. It should be illegal for Chargers fans to peaceably assemble in the stadium without paying admission. Otherwise, they'd be stealing.
Similarly, perpetually squatting in a public place denies its use to those other citizens who have an equal right to use it.

The occupation did assemble and they did petition (sort of, they certainly did complain, but they don't have a clear message). Now why don't we let the rest of the world get on with their business and they can go back to theirs.

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