Occupy Chattanooga seeks permit to camp and protest

Occupy Chattanooga seeks permit to camp and protest

November 1st, 2011 by Andrew Pantazi in News

Aria Taibi (center) organizes her group's brainstormed list of goals for Occupy Chattanooga in Miller Plaza during the first general assembly meeting of Occupy Chattanooga on Friday. Hundreds of people gathered in the plaza to decide what the goals of Occupy Chattanooga should be.

Photo by Alex Washburn/Times Free Press.

WHAT'S NEXT

The Occupy Chattanooga leaders go before the Chattanooga City Council tonight at 6 p.m. in City Council chambers.

POLL: Should Occupy Chattanooga be allowed to camp downtown?

The Occupy Chattanooga movement plans to ask Chattanooga's City Council for permits to camp and protest.

But regardless of the council's decision at tonight's meeting, movement leaders say they'll go ahead with their plans to camp at some spot in the city.

Ricky Blevins, one of the local movement's voluntary spokesmen, said he hoped Chattanooga would follow the example of Irvine, Calif., where the council granted permits for the local Occupy movement.

If the Chattanooga council doesn't grant the permits, members of Occupy Chattanooga said they'll still pick a location to camp after the City Council meeting ends. There's no specific place mapped out just yet, Blevins said.

"We need to have that center of activity where we can work out of," he said. "It'll help us learn more about each other and more about the community."

As of 9 p.m. Monday night, 50 people said they were attending the event at City Council.

So far, Occupy Chattanooga has been holding general assembly meetings in which members have decided on the logistics and purpose of the movement. To be agreed upon, each topic needed a 90 percent majority, Blevins said.

The members agreed on a list of 19 demands, and they agreed to officially start the occupation tonight.

Chattanooga police have prepared for potential illegal protests, but spokeswoman Sgt. Jerri Weary said she doesn't expect the movement will need to be broken up.

"As long as they apply for their permits and receive those permits, they have the right to peaceful assembly and peaceful protest," she said.

If the movement does break city code and protest without a permit, police plan to take appropriate actions.

"We will do what the police department is supposed to do," Weary said. "We are not going to beat any people up or do any of what you've seen on TV. If it requires a custodial arrest, we will do so. But we don't anticipate any problems because thus far they have been in compliance with the law."

Blevins said he expects interactions with police to be peaceful.

In Nashville, more than 50 Occupy protesters at the Tennessee Capitol have been arrested and charged with criminal trespassing, although a judge has tossed out the charges, saying the state didn't have probable cause for the arrests.

The state of Tennessee agreed Monday to stop enforcing the curfew.

"We hope we don't have what happened in Nashville," Blevins said. "I would not expect it."

On Thursday, at a local protest of a fundraiser for U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., the local police complimented protesters for how peaceful they kept the event.

"We're against the violence," Blevins said. "We're against the radicalization of things. Instead, we're showing ourselves as mature adults trying to peacefully make change."

Blevins said he expects the occupation will last at least through the 2012 elections.

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