In Washington DC Police say they will allow occupy protesters to stay for months listen10/11/11 Kelly Benjamin
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In Boston yesterday, police arrested dozens of protesters affiliated with Occupy Wall Street movement that has sprung up in major cities across the United States. However, in Washington DC, after Occupy protesters' permit expired on Monday, they were able to reach a deal with the police to legally occupy Freedom Plaza for up to four months. Today WMNF's Kelly Benjamin spoke with St. Petersburg homeless rights activist Bruce Wright who is camped in the Plaza.
Here is an excerpt from the Occupy DC statement:
The Park Police offered the extension as soon as we were able to talk to them in private -- here's how we got there ...
It was quite a scene when the police arrived at Freedom Plaza at about 2 in the afternoon
The permit ran out. The media was all there waiting for us to get arrested. A Park police ranger (in charge of the permit) and a police officer arrived. As they walked across the Plaza the media and community followed and surrounded them. They got to the tent, and were surrounded, asked for Margaret and me. Margaret used the opportunity to make a speech to the media about why we were there, the economic crisis, wars etc. They said they wanted to talk to us and started to walk from the tent, we followed and so did the media and community. When they stopped we were even more surrounded. The park officials look flabbergasted and a little scared. They said they wanted to talk in private. Margaret said we believed government needed to me more transparent and that any thing they would say to us we would share with the group. They insisted on private and left.
We did a lot of talking to the media -- Congress shall make no law abridging our freedom of speech and right to assemble to redress grievances, we were staying no matter what the Park Police did, our ranks would grow if the police arrested us etc.
Then we had an General Assembly to decide whether we should insist on a public meeting or meet them in private as requested. There was a lot of talk about transparency and how that is what we want. Then there were a lot of people making the case that they could probably not meet in public, could not talk to the media and would be constrained in a public meeting and might not be able to offer us as much as they could in private. The consensus was ask for a public meeting and if they would not then do it in private, but we had no power to accept or reject any offer, would have to bring it back to the GA for discussion.
Mark Goldstone, Tarak, Dennis, Margaret and I went to the meeting. When we got there they immediately made it clear they wanted to give us a permit extension under the same terms as the current permit. We said many of us were uncomfortable with permits and quoted the First Amendment. They said to facilitate our First Amendment rights they could give us a permit. One problem was there were others who had permits in the next few weeks (2 yoga events, one leukemia event and one MLK march by DC government for the official unveiling of the MLK memorial) she had already talked to most of them and they were all willing to share the space with us if we would move our materials so they could do their events. We said we thought our group would be willing to move to allow those events as it was not our intention to disrupt yoga, leukemia fundraising or a march for Dr. King. We thought there would be people in our group who would like to participate in all three events.
We took their offer back to the GA. They discussed it for 45 minutes and accepted it.