Saturday, October 29, 2011

cities cracking down on occupy protests...,

NYTimes | in the usually liberal environs of San Francisco, city officials there had also seemingly hit their breaking point, and they warned several hundred protesters that they were in violation of the law by camping at a downtown site. Concerns had been raised about unhealthy and often squalid conditions in the camp, including garbage, vermin and human waste.

In Atlanta, Mayor Kasim Reed ordered the police to arrest more than 50 protesters early Wednesday and remove their tents from a downtown park after deciding that the situation had become unsafe, despite originally issuing executive orders to let them camp there overnight.

And like many of his mayoral colleagues nationwide, Mr. Reed openly expressed frustration with the protesters’ methods.

“The attitude I have seen here is not consistent with any civil rights protests I have seen in Atlanta,” Mr. Reed said in an interview, “and certainly not consistent with the most respected forms of civil disobedience.”

Similar confrontations could soon come to pass in other cities, including Providence, R.I., where Mayor Angel Taveras has vowed to seek a court order to remove protesters from Burnside Park, which they have occupied since Oct. 15.

And while other, bigger cities, including New York, Boston and Philadelphia, have taken a more tolerant view of the protests — for now — officials are still grappling with growing concerns about crime, sanitation and homelessness at the encampments. Even in Los Angeles, where the City Council passed a resolution in support of the protesters, Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa warned Wednesday that they would not be allowed to remain outside City Hall indefinitely.

Dot Joyce, a spokeswoman for Mayor Thomas M. Menino of Boston, echoed that sentiment. “It’s a daily assessment for us,” Ms. Joyce said.

More and more, mayors across the country say they have found themselves walking a complex and politically delicate line: simultaneously wanting to respect the right to free speech and assembly, but increasingly concerned that the protests cannot stay orderly and safe.

“We can do lots of different things to help them on our end,” said Mr. Taveras, who estimated that roughly 200 people had camped out in Providence, despite a city rule forbidding such behavior. “But we cannot allow an indefinite stay there, and we can’t allow them to continue to violate the law.”

The protests showed little sign of slacking. In Chicago, for example, demonstrators gathered Wednesday outside the office of Mayor Rahm Emanuel requesting 24-hour access to Grant Park and demanding that charges be dropped against the more than 300 protesters arrested there in the past weeks.

“He’s denying us our constitutional right to not only free speech, but peaceful continual assembly,” said Andy Manos, 32, one of the protesters.

Even in Democratic Chicago, officials seemed to be straining to allow for dissent, while maintaining order. “We’ve been working hard to strike a balance,” said Chris Mather, a spokeswoman for Mr. Emanuel. Ms. Mather added that the mayor’s office had tried to set up meetings with protesters, who themselves said they were trying to find a permanent home for their demonstrations.

Indeed, some city officials said the tensions surrounding the Occupy protests have been increased by the fact that many of the groups involved have few recognized leaders.

“It’s a significant challenge to deal with their decision-making process,” said Richard Negrin, the managing director of Philadelphia, where tents form a protest village outside City Hall.