Monday, October 17, 2011

Occupy Orange County - Day 3: Petition Seeks Right to Encamp

Occupy Orange County is now entering its third night after hassles from Irvine police the first night. According to Occupy Orange County, Irvine police, after promising the protesters they could stay overnight on the sidewalks, but not the lawn, in a classic "bait and switch", at 10 p.m. Saturday, after forcing them to move from the lush green lawn, insisted they could not sleep on the sidewalk after all. Police told them they must keep walking all night on the concrete sidewalk surrounding the grass.

Alessandro Levine sings on the piano; author in silhouette on Day 1 of Occupy OC. Photo copyright Daniel C. Tsang 2011

Does Irvine police intend to inflict torture on the protesters? This is akin to what Chinese AIDS activist Wan Yanhai once told me, that he was forced to stand for hours on end while incarcerated by Chinese authorities in Beijing. That is really painful.

Of course, the Occupy OC protesters managed to sneak in some rest, since after all, they are not in prison or under constant surveillance. But does Irvine want to be known as a police state whereby it quashes any dissent from citizens and residents who just want to exercise their First Amendment rights to protest?

Indeed that's what the organizers of Occupy OC now say, that they don't need a permit, the First Amendment is all they need to encamp in Irvine. Also, the excuse the police gave that sleeping on the sidewalk would impede pedestrian traffic overnight is specious. No one is up that late except the protesters and the occasional police drive-bys.

Meanwhile, a legal representative of the protesters has sent a letter (redacted online) to the Irvine police, protesting its turnaround.

Tents went up again during the daylight, but the situation seems at a stalemate, with the police refusing to budge. An online petition has been set up, asserting the protesters' rights to peacefully assemble. It boldly proclaims "OUR PERMIT TO OCCUPY PUBLIC SQUARES AND PARKS IS THE FIRST AMENDMENT, which affirms 'the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances'." As of late Monday, over 460 people had signed, some anonymously. Signatory 453 Christina Weidner, wrote: "Please let us continue our demonstration in a peaceful, dignat, respectful manner! Respect us, as we respect you! There is no harm in allowing us this privilege! Thank you!" After all, the Irvine police web site declares respect as one of its defining attributes.

Today, on Day 3, the organizers appealed to Orange Countians to "get involved". The protesters aren't calling it quits and assert they are "committed to keeping the encampment" at the Irvine Civic Center, Alton and Harvard.

See also the latest updates from OC Weekly.

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