City governments used the element of surprise and sometimes force to evict members of Occupy Austin and Occupy Washington D.C. from their public encampments over the past 48 hours.
Occupy Austin Ousted With 30 Minute Warning
Occupy Austin had been demonstrating on the plaza in front of Austin City Hall for 120 days (here’s what it looked like on Day 1).
Apparently, City Manager Marc Ott suddenly decided to change the rules regarding who could utilize the public Mezzanine and Amphitheater located outside the building, and for how long.
According to an Occupy Austin press release, several people appeared at the Occupy Austin welcome booth at around 9:30 pm on Friday with paperwork said to be ‘from City Hall’. The paperwork detailed a series of new restrictions for City Hall grounds that are set to go into effect on February 2nd, 2012 (so why wasn’t the notice delivered on the 2nd?).
The new rules prohibit any non-city usage of the plaza between 10pm and 6am unless there is a city meeting going on, and also ban “sleeping, camping and the use or storage of sleeping equipment” at all times.
Occupy Austin alleges that at 10:45pm, over 50 Austin Police officers exited a bus and surrounded the encampment. Many Occupiers who were not able to collect their belongings in the previous hour were arrested. One such woman with a history of medical issues had a seizure during the arrest. No immediate medical attention was given to her and eyewitnesses reported that “they continued to man handle her” after the seizure began. More images of Occupy Austin eviction available here.
Occupy DC Enjoys Media-Friendly Raid
Occupy DC protesters have been camped at McPherson Square for several months, much to the chagrin of the National Park Service members charged with maintaining the area.
When police in riot gear showed up in the pre-dawn hours of Saturday morning, they were careful to say that “they were not evicting the protesters or closing the park, but instead stepping up enforcement of an existing ban on camping.” Under the current rules, protesters are allowed to conduct a 24 -hour vigil in the federal park but not camp out overnight.
Apparently the tarpaulin tent protesters erected near the statue of Maj. Gen. James B. McPherson in the square made police suspicious that people might be sleeping during their legal “24 hour vigil.” Protesters said they had expected the raid, but some were surprised at the magnitude of the response, which included dozens of officers, fire hoses and a paddy wagon.
“It’s pretty excessive if all they wanted us to do was take down the tarp,” said Ricky Lehner, a protester, told the Washington Post. Reports stated that police arrested four people in the early morning, and later arrested two more.
Both Occupy Austin and Occupy DC still have many demonstrations planned throughout the month of February, and neither have indicated that these evictions will be anything more than temporary setbacks.
Top Image Credit: Flickr – meadow03