By Desert Sun staff / November 1, 2011
PALM DESERT — At least eight people were arrested overnight as Palm Desert police cleared the park where Occupy Coachella Valley protesters camped for a week.
“I saw a brigade of cops; it was unbelievable,” said protester Steven Finger, 56, of Palm Desert. “They were in two rows wearing gear and they were marching down the street.”
Five protesters and two other people not involved with Occupy Coachella Valley were arrested at Civic Center Park, Riverside County sheriff’s Lt. Bill Sullivan wrote in an email to The Desert Sun about 1:30 a.m. A Desert Sun photographer saw two more protesters arrested about 15 minutes later.
Eight unlawful assembly suspects arrested near the park were booked into the Riverside County jail in Indio, jail records show. Four of those people had been released by about 6:45 a.m.
Finger, who was in the second round of arrests, told The Desert Sun that protesters weren’t given any orders to disburse on Monday night.
“There was no order to disburse, no warning. They were just pointing at who to arrest and saying ‘that one, that one.’”
City officials last week granted temporary overnight permits during the camp’s first few days, but when it grew clear the protesters planned to stay indefinitely, the city refused to renew the permit on Friday.
Since then, police have visited the camp after the park’s 11 p.m. closing time at least twice to warn protesters to leave, or at least stand on the adjacent sidewalk instead.
“We have tried everything possible to accommodate (the protesters),” Sullivan said. “We gave warnings, letters.”
No one was hurt as the arrests were made, he said.
“My perception is that those who wanted to be arrested were arrested and those who didn’t moved to the sidewalk,” Sullivan said.
Police arrived at the park about 11:30 p.m., Sullivan said. The first wave of arrests was made at 12:15 a.m., according to jail records.
About 1:20 a.m., 13 people stayed on the sidewalk as four officers and two police cars remained on scene. Some of the protesters who weren’t arrested remained and shouted at officers.