Sunday, October 16, 2011

Occupy Long Beach: "This Is Night One"

6:30am |
The members of Occupy Long Beach, the collective, opted for a less defiant approach to Saturday night than it had been suggested they might by vacating Lincoln Park by its 10 p.m. closing time (which a repeated police announcement made sure they knew).

But there is certainly a suggestion it might not always go this way, with talk of more strategic ways to "spend our arrests" should OLB decide it's worthwhile to be civilly disobedient.

But now is not the time. After all, said Demos1, "This is [only] Night One."

Even if there may be mixed group feelings about arrests, the collective (in the neighborhood of 200 on Saturday as 10 p.m. arrived) seems unanimous that, even if/when/where there is civil disobedience, those actions will not include the violent or the destructive.

Occupy Long Beach employs a small array of simple hand/arm signals. One is crossing your arms in an X above your head, which means something along the lines of "bad/stop," including a sense of bring the rest of the collectives attention to a problem. This can be something as non-critical as stopping a group member from publically providing other members with incorrect information. But it also goes for (e.g.) someone throwing a bottle. Destructive to property, destructive to life, destructive to Occupy movement — all definite no-nos. If an "agent provocateur" does such a thing, you're supposed to make clear to the police that you're not down with it.

And so OLB liaisons (blue armbands) checked with police about what they could and couldn't do in the eyes of the law this evening, and were told marching around all night was no problem2. And at about 11 they started marching, chanting, dancing a bit. And I left.

At 1 a.m. Demos called to relate that a new sergeant had come on and was saying, contrary to his predecessor, that the OLBers could remain, but not if they were lying down.

At 2:30 a.m., the LBPD sent out a press release: OCCUPY LONG BEACH RESULTS IN A PEACEFUL AND ORDERLY DEMONSTRATION. The police noted that "the police department also supports the right of every person to assemble and demonstrate in a lawful manner," which they say was the case, with the exception the tents (at least in as far as they were "an apparent attempt to camp out at the park" — but that "however, the tents were removed without confrontation upon [police] request."

The conclusion of the press release:
Today’s demonstration was a display of mutual respect between police and the demonstrating community. Demonstrators were able to exercise their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech while obeying all applicable laws. As a result of this peaceful protest, no arrests were made or citations issued.
An hour later, though, Demos texted to say the sergeant was citing Long Beach Municipal Code Section 9.22.110 ("Camping prohibited in certain areas") as a prohibition against the OLBers using sleeping bags and blankets.

The closest thing I found is in Subsection B: "the term 'camp' shall mean the use of tents or other temporary shelter." My curiosity got the best of me, and I walked down and found Sgt. Brown3 and asked. Yes, he said, it was his interpretation that sleeping bags and blankets are "temporary shelter," in that they shelter you from the elements. I asked if jackets count: he seemed to indicate that they do not.

Whatever the case, he said the police were not looking to issue whatever citations they could, that they wanted to respect what the OLBers are up to, etc. And that the sleeping bags/blankets thing — or the sleeping itself, which I was told by Demos a pair of officers had said they couldn't do4 — on this night.

It was 4 a.m. Everyone was tired. I just got home and am dying for sleep. Goodnight.

1 This is a different Demos than Thursday night. It seems appropriate to cal them all Demos when there's no reason not to, the current ethos seeming to be leaning toward leaderlessness and the collective mattering for than the individual.
2 At about 9:45 p.m. Demos had said this was the plan for the evening, okayed by police if the group numbered fewer than 76.
3 I forgot to get his first name. Forgive me. I was very tired.
4 Brown said he was unaware of this directive, and that he presumed (correctly) that some people along the park wall were asleep. Earlier in the evening another officer had told me LBMC Sec. 9.42.110(a) "prohibits sleeping or camping in a public place between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.," but the copy I find online says nothing about sleeping.

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