For the third time in as many weeks, Occupy San Diego activists attended the Tuesday San Diego City Council meeting in efforts to elicit support from the Council. They did this by making comments during the “Public Comment” period looking for a resolution from the City’s legislative branch in favor of Occupy San Diego’s efforts – such as the LA City Council took for Occupy LA.
Organizers spoke about the recent late-night police raids during which 51 occupiers were arrested, about the people injured during those raids, and particularly about the manner in which police made subsequent arrests – producing an extremely negative image for the City.
As they spoke, the Civic Center Plaza downstairs seemed barren compared to what it was when it was the site of the Occupy San Diego tent city, and then later with a hundred or more sleeping bags spread out. Currently, police have effectively cleared the Plaza of all sleeping bags and people, any furniture, signs, banners, tables and other accoutrements of a protest encampment. Meetings and teach-ins still occur in the Plaza area, and in fact, a small teach-in by the IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) was going on at noon today tucked back in a shady section of the Concourse. Union-donated and prepared sandwiches were being passed out as well.
While the police prevent the Plaza from being an occupation zone, about forty to fifty occupiers are sleeping in the grassy strip just to the east of Civic Theater – really right outside its doors – just off the sidewalk and 3rd Avenue itself. We measured the area this morning and found this sanctioned sleeping area in the grass to be approximately 2100 square feet.
In the meantime, police officers guarded water-filled plastic barriers that ring off the 3rd Avenue entrances to the Plaza except for a small opening. Four of them stood by that opening. Police motorcycles were in abundance, and the overall presence by police seemed way out of proportion for what was going on.
Perhaps the high numbers of officers had been ordered so that would be prepared for anything happening during the City Council meeting, which began at 10 a.m. Up in the Council Chambers and sitting in the front row was Police Chief William Lansdowne, with several high-ranking officers who have been involved with the occupation movement also present: Asst Chief Boyd Long and Capt. Mark Jones.
It turned out that the City Council was declaring this day “The Salute to America’s Finest Day” – honoring the SDPD. City Council gadfly Jarvis Ross got up to protest, saying that “the City did a disservice to the police by forcing them into a situation that made the police look like a third world country.”
“The veil has been pulled off,” Ross continued. “Something is wrong with this country. Americans by the thousands are in support of Occupy San Diego and Occupy Wall Street.”
Following on the Council’s agenda, organizers and supporters of OccupySD proved to be quite eloquent in their short speeches to the Council – several of them receiving enthusiastic applause and even a standing ovation.
Crickett Bradburn told the Council members that she was dismayed at the way police acted late at night, that they behaved “in a way,” she said, “to break your enemies.”
“When did it become criminal for people to exercise their Constitutional rights? We made them [the demonstrators] the enemy that night,” referring to the police raids on OccupySD on October 28th. She ended with, “It could have been a lot worse, but it didn’t because of the honorable people on both sides.”
Ray Lutz, a local East County politician who has been involved with OccupySD, talked about finding “a cure for the criminal banking behavior on Wall Street.” He announced that he had 1200 signatures on a petition asking for a favorable resolution from the Council, and said that this “is an opportunity to engage the Occupy movement.” He also refuted an earlier speaker that had denounced the protests for ruining local businesses, telling the Council that business at Charlie Brown’s restaurant and pub on the edge of the Plaza had increased by 65% increase.
Next up was John T., also daily involved, and told the Chambers that he had an additional 250 signed petitions and letters, and that “all want us to have a place to occupy.” He declared “Tents must be free speech! If money is free speech, then so must be cardboard signs and tents,” explaining to the Council that the Irvine City Council had passed a resolution that recognized that tents were free speech.
John spoke of a man, Greg Sullivan, who had been arrested by police the night before for sleeping out near the Plaza, but no bed was offered – as the City’s ordinance requires, and that he was not read his rights.
Martha Sullivan pointed out to the Council that the police are misinterpreting the law, and are arbitrarily enforcing the Municipal Code. She used an example cited by Marco Gonzalez in his observations that police officers stood by doing nothing while water drainage laws of the Muni Code were being violated, when at the same time, officers are harassing and arresting demonstrators for petty violations of the same code.
Another occupier Mikey likened the occupation tents to the “Hoovervilles of the thirties.”
Anita Simon was next to the podium. “Since last week,” she began, “lots has happened, some good, a lot bad.” She recounted how because of the protests she had met ” alot of good people – this is a new family of mine.” She had met homeless people she would never have met but for OccupySD.
But Simon said she was greatly disturbed by police tactis and “by what happened at 2 a.m. [with the police raids],” … it was great mis-spending of my tax monies,” that it was wasteful to have a “round the clock phalanx of officers to enforce petty crimes.”
A young man who has been at the occupation site for days – if not weeks – then approached the Council. Chase Fite pleaded with them to help find a “possible viable location for Occupy San Diego. We need a viable place for our speech to be heard.” He reminded the Council that if they found a “sanctioned place” it would “decrease the amount on money spent on the police, and would allow us to increase our own social services,” plus, he continued, “it would look good for you politically,” and it would “decrease the general animosity between us and the police.”
Next was Ernest Verone who chastised the police for erecting barricades at the Plaza – “what if there was a stampede?” he asked the Council. “During the raid, one woman was hurt badly,” drawing a connection between civil suits against the City for such police behavior.
Finally before Council President broke for lunch, Nicole G. told the Council how she was arrested after a peaceful assembly had been raided, that she had been shackled a long with 20 other women who had to sit in a van for three hours without water or restroom breaks. She described how at one point she was choked by an officer.
She said “I am treated as a criminal without having my day in court.” Lastly, Nicole compared the unsanitary conditions of the cell she was placed in with the criticisms and accusations of how unsanitary the occupation site was supposed to be.
The Council was to hear more public comments when they reconvened at 2pm, but was not expected to take up any supportive resolution today. We took the elevator back to the lobby, joined the IBEW out in the Plaza for a while, and then tried to get a sense of what was on tonight’s General Assembly agenda at 7pm.