19 arrested as police clear Occupy Salt Lake from park
By Steve Fidel and Marjorie Cortez
November 12th, 2011 @ 10:00pm
SALT LAKE CITY — Police arrested 19 people while clearing the
Occupy Salt Lake tent city from Pioneer Park Saturday night, but the
eviction was conducted largely without incident.
Participants were asked by police at sundown to take down their
tents, pack their belongings and relocate. Most complied. Their
belongings were taken to a private warehouse for temporary storage, as
arranged by homeless advocate John Netto. He also organized
transportation in limousines and buses for people living in the park who
wanted to stay in local homeless shelters or join the Occupy Ogden
Netto said he and his wife, a Presbyterian minister, have
cultivated a relationship of trust with many homeless people in Utah.
Netto, a supporter of the Occupy Salt Lake movement, said he got
involved to ensure no one was injured while police cleared the park.
Some of the people in the park "are quite ill" and needed to be dealt
with kindly, he said.
Salt Lake Police Chief Chris Burbank said the park was cleared in
a peaceful manner thanks to the assistance of community members and the
professional manner in which Salt Lake police officers conducted
themselves. "It's gone as well as we could have expected," Burbank said.
It's gone as well as we could have expected.–Chief Chris Burbank, SLC Police Department
As for Netto arranging rides in limousines, Burbank joked, "I think he set a standard that will be hard to compete with."
Salt Lake City public works crews began cleaning the park even
before it was cleared. Burbank said the immediate plan was to clear the
park of property, close it, and allow city crews to thoroughly clean it.
Burbank said city officials are working on establishing another protest
space nearby and would allow the occupiers to have two tents in the
park - a makeshift education center and kitchen, although no cooking
equipment would be permitted.
While the protesters could return to the park, they will not be
permitted to camp overnight. The park curfew, Burbank said, is a half
hour after sunset, according to the city ordinance.
Most people cooperated with police. As arrests were made, Occupy
Salt Lake participants collectively shouted the person's name and
thanked them for their sacrifice.
Representatives of the ACLU of Utah were in the park to observe
the activities of police as the park was cleared. Acting legal director
Joe Cohn said the ACLU had concerns about "unnecessary restrictions on
First Amendment activities."
While he understood the health and safety concerns raised by the
police chief and city officials, Cohn said, "We must ask, if someone
died of an overdose at the homeless shelter, would they be closing the
"We think this was an overreaction to events leading up to tonight."
District 7 Salt Lake City Councilman Soren Simonsen said while he
understood Burbank's and Salt Lake Mayor Ralph Becker's concerns about
health and safety in Pioneer Park, he was "very disappointed to see the
park cleared." He said he would work with city officials to ensure
protesters had other options to continue to assemble peacefully.
Shortly before sunset, some 30 law enforcement vehicles — police
cruisers, jail buses and mobile command posts — lined 400 South along
Pioneer Park in preparation for the operation.
Burbank said the department was prepared for every contingency
but it was his intention to conduct the operation as peacefully as
possible. He entered the park first, flanked by a couple of officers, to
hear the concerns of Occupy Salt Lake participants and explain that
officers would assist them in clearing their belongings.
We have room tonight for single men, single women and families with children. We're bringing in everyone we possibly can.–- Matt Minkevitch, The Road Home
While some were arrested when they resisted police and incited others, most complied with the officers' instructions.
Occupy SLC participant Seth Neily urged calm. "We stand for peaceful protest. Don't let people get hurt here."
Another protester, who would not provide his name, shouted "This
is not the end of the movement. We have technology. We can regroup."
Two gatherings were planned for Sunday, one at noon at the
Gallivan Center and another at Pioneer Park at 4 p.m., some organizers
About 7 p.m. Saturday, police arrested protester Michael Wilson,
who was putting up a tent long after other tents were going down.
By 7:30 p.m. the tent city was mostly torn down and people waited
with their belongings until they could go to the warehouse to
temporarily store their belongings and then ride to shelters or other
destinations. The people in the park included "occupiers" as well as
homeless people who are well known to advocates and police.
Occupy Salt Lake had been granted a permit to camp overnight in Pioneer Park since the protest started in mid-October.
On Friday, city officials announced that overnight camping would
no longer be allowed anywhere in the city. That announcement left
protesters camping at Pioneer Park and at the Gallivan Center with about
24 hours to decide what to do.
The city changed its position following the death of homeless man
identified only as "Mike" on Thursday night. Police believe his death
may have been caused by a drug overdose and carbon monoxide poisoning
from a space heater inside his tent.
Mayor Becker met with protest groups that have been camped at
Pioneer Park and the Gallivan Center, and issued a statement Saturday
evening saying he had agreed to a compromise that would let the protest
groups keep one or two tents in each location to store materials with
only a person or two allowed to tend the storage tents during the
Earlier in the afternoon, participants said they hoped police would give them more time to relocate.
"We need a week before we can move," occupier Ryan Kirk said
about 1:30 p.m. Saturday. "We're trying to work with the city to get
Police officers talking with the occupiers Saturday afternoon
warned them no extension in the deadline was in the works. Kirk said
some of the occupiers were weighing their options to avoid being
arrested. He acknowledged that, as part of their protest, some in the
camp may stay put with the hope they can be arrested.
He and occupier Justin Sampson acknowledged that the homeless,
who joined the Occupy SLC protesters, now have the problems facing the
homeless as their primary agenda.
But at least one "occupying couple" that published an article in
the movement's newsletter, "Notes from an Occupation," praised the
"There's more resources and there's a lot more people up here who
understand and are willing to actually work with you and give you info
on where you can go take showers or get food or get clothes. There seems
to be more resources up here than out in Ogden or anywhere else. I feel
more comfortable here than in any other city I've ever been in."
Matt Minkevitch, executive director of The Road Home, which
provides shelter and support for overcoming homelessness, said between
the weather and the deadline for Occupy SLC participants to leave from
Pioneer Park looming, the shelter system was prepared for every
"We have room tonight for single men, single women and families
with children. We're bringing in everyone we possibly can. That's been
the case for years now," he said.
The shelters are "not at capacity now," Minkevitch said. "I
expect 50-plus families out in Midvale (The Road Home's overflow
shelter) and some 20 to 30 single guys to come in. With this weather,
we'll see some of the guys that prefer to camp out will start to come
Written by [url=mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]Steve Fidel[/url] and [url=mailto:email@example.com]Marjorie Cortez[/url].
Tags: obama, acorn, occupy, wall street, ows, scum baggers, flea baggers, drug addicts, losers, dead, lol
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