|(Updated) Police raid Occupy BG (12-5-11)|
|Written by By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN/Sentinel County Editor|
|Monday, 05 December 2011 07:12|
Armed with batons and pepper spray, the officers first set up a perimeter on the East Wooster end of the Community Commons where the Occupy BG participants have been camped out for six weeks. Another line of officers then barricaded the north end of the Commons. PHOTO BLOG
The final team, with helmets and face shields on, then surrounded the largest tent on the site and entered the makeshift camp.
Sgt. Alan Carsey read the order to those inside: “You are hereby directed by the mayor of the city of Bowling Green to disperse from the Community Commons.” Carsey went on to tell the two people in the tent that they had two minutes to gather their personal belongings and leave the Commons area.
Other officers began using surgical sheers to cut open the tent.
As Carsey repeated orders to vacate, the two inside the tent, Gilbert Bentley and Taylor Scribner, stood texting on their cell phones to alert other Occupy supporters of the raid. Scribner then lifted her phone to videotape the officers on the scene.
“I just want a non-violence video,” she said.
The two refused to leave, but offered no physical resistance. By 5:10 a.m., they were handcuffed and taken to a police van at the north end of the Commons.
Within minutes, the first Occupy supporter to respond to texts of the raid showed up. He was not allowed into the Commons area.
“I just ran from the university to show support,” said Josh Chamberland, who was barefooted and wearing pajama pants and a sleeveless shirt.
Sgt. Mark McDonough, on the line barricading the north end of the Commons, suggested that Chamberland show his support from outside the perimeter.
“I don’t believe in what you are doing,” he shouted. “Do you believe in the First Amendment? Why are you here?”
Most of his questions went unanswered by the stone-faced officers. No pepper spray was used, but one officer used a baton to slowly push Chamberland away as he tried to enter the Commons.
Chamberland persisted, talking about U.S. support of the Arab spring. “The U.S. believes in freedom to assembly, freedom of speech.”
He questioned who the police worked for — the government or the people. “Is this government not supposed to be for the people, by the people?”
Meanwhile, city street crews began dismantling the Occupy camp. They hauled out tents, cots, sleeping bags, a heater, backpacks, coffee pot, jugs of water, blankets and a clothesline strung on trees. PHOTO BLOG
Other Occupy supporters showed up on the scene — questioning the removal of the camp.
Wes Stiner reminded the police officers of voters’ support defeating Issue 2 in the general election.
“We’re part of the reason you still have your pensions, your pay, your collective bargaining rights,” he shouted. “We had your back in November. You screw us in December. What’s going on here?”
As street crews continued to load items from the camp, Chamberland sat down in front of one of the city trucks.
“This truck isn’t going anywhere without taking me to jail,” he said. “I still love this country.”
Police ended up cuffing and carrying Chamberland off to a prisoner van, charging him with obstructing official business and resisting arrest.
The three people arrested were taken to Wood County jail and were to appear for video arraignment today at Bowling Green Municipal Court.
By 5:24 a.m., the Commons was clear of the Occupy campsite.
But supporters vowed to continue their protest of economic inequality.
“You can take our stuff, but we won’t go,” Angie Peck said.
Stiner said the Occupy participants will meet and decide on their next step.
As for the police, they plan to continue a presence at the Commons — though it is unknown for how long.
“People can still exercise their freedom of speech in that area,” Chief Brad Conner said this morning after the raid. They just can’t camp out there, he added.
Conner said he was pleased with how the raid was handled this morning. The department learned how not to handle the raid from experiences of other cities around the country.
Bowling Green had allowed the Occupy camp to be set up six weeks ago, but last week issued an order that the tents and other items had to be removed. The items were reportedly in violation of a city ordinance that requires sidewalks and public access areas to be kept clear.
Police waited to enforce the order until the early hours of this morning, when they predicted few people would be at the site.
The police held two training sessions over the weekend, with more than 25 officers brushing up on techniques using pressure points and batons. But none of that was required on the peaceful protesters.
The last time the BG police trained for a specific event like this was for the KKK rally at the county courthouse in 1999.
“I was very pleased with how it went,” Conner said of this morning’s raid. “A lot of hard work and training went into this, and it went down very well.”
|Last Updated on Monday, 05 December 2011 11:03|
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