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Occupy Santa Rosa vows civil disobedience


Richard Canini, 62, of Santa Rosa listens in on the daily general assembly, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2011, during Occupy Santa Rosa at Santa Rosa City Hall.

KENT PORTER/ The Press Democrat
Published: Wednesday, October 26, 2011 at 12:10 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 26, 2011 at 6:25 p.m.

With an eye on re-energizing their movement, Occupy Santa Rosa organizers are planning a “full-scale occupation of City Hall” this weekend with tents and sleeping bags, items that are banned by the city.

At the Occupy site at City Hall on Wednesday, demonstrators began distributing a flier that called for supporters to “bring your Halloween costume, sleeping bags, tents to support erecting a tent city.”

The move, which invites a police response, is intended to bolster sagging participation in the protest that has being going on round-the-clock for 12 days.

In other cities, including Oakland and Atlanta, encampments have prompted clashes with authorities and mass arrests.

“What we've noticed here is the presence has been dwindling,” said Thomas Cooper, an Occupy organizer. “It's hard to sleep here. It's cold and we really need to re-establish a space here for people to stay in, and also be kind of an organizing hub for what we're doing with Occupy Santa Rosa in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street.”

The movement is directed at the nation's widening wealth gap, with a goal of curtailing the ability of the super rich to influence politics and the economy.

Some of the half-dozen participants described their plan as an act of civil disobedience that will follow a rally and march planned for 2 p.m. Saturday at the steps of City Hall. Demonstrators have maintained a presence there since Oct. 15.

The action would represent a break from what has been for the most part a cooperative relationship with city officials and the police.

Demonstrators have been allowed to maintain a 24-hour presence at City Hall as long as they do not violate ordinances that forbid them from sleeping, cooking or setting up a camp. They were denied a permit for such activities.

Occupy protesters said Wednesday that they are trying to drum up support and participation in the coming days in anticipation of a confrontation with police.

On Tuesday evening in Oakland, Occupy protesters clashed with officers clad in riot gear. In numerous videos circulating on the Internet, officers are seen using tear gas on demonstrators and demonstrators throwing objects at police.

Santa Rosa Police Chief Tom Schwedhelm said Wednesday that his department will continue to “encourage the voluntary compliance with the law.” He said officers will take whatever action they deem appropriate on Saturday.

There have been no major conflicts between local Occupy protesters and police, though a number of citations have been issued for such things as camping and cooking at City Hall.

Schwedhelm said that as of Tuesday, police had issued 11 citations, eight of them for camping.

Another five citations had been issued at nearby Comstock Mall and the 300 block of Third Street for violations including possession and use of marijuana, smoking, possession of alcohol and for camping.

The area across the street from the Occupy site at City Hall has attracted a number of people, some of them transients. Protesters say that while they sympathize with this group, their presence has become increasingly problematic, with some of them using drugs and alcohol.

Occupy organizers have reiterated a zero-tolerance policy they established last week that forbids any drug or alcohol use at the site.

You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 521-5213 or martin.espinoza@pressdemocrat.com.

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