Liz Swain 4:24 p.m., May 24
Occupy San Diego to Take Legal Action Against City and Police
Yesterday, attorneys representing Occupy San Diego held a press conference at the Civic Center Plaza to announce their intention to file a request on Friday for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the City of San Diego and the San Diego Police Department for violating the First Amendment rights of protestors.
The spokespersons called the city ordinance — San Diego Municipal Code Section
54.0110 (Encroachment), which allows police to selectively cite persons placing any item on public property — unconstitutional.
Spokesperson Ray Lutz likened the ordinance to forbidding beach-goers to leave a towel on the sand while going for a swim.
“Free speech can be subject to reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions,” said attorney Bryan Pease, “but you can’t have an ordinance that’s so overbroad, that puts so much unlimited discretion in the police department that they can tell anybody they want that they can’t put a sign down and in effect create a basically free speech free zone where there’s no free speech in the Civic Center Plaza and push everybody out into the street.”
Spokesperson John Kenney presented a citation he was given by police last Wednesday for “illegal use of the horn” after honking for “three seconds” while driving past the protest.
“The very moment this was happening, I was surrounded by three police on CHiPs motorcycles,” said Kenney. “[City council president] Tony Young was on NPR saying he supported our right to free speech. But nobody will give us a permit or letter of understanding or any way whatsoever to occupy this space.”
Kenney posited that being allowed to have structures on the plaza (which was the case for the first week of the occupation, until the first police raid on October 14) makes the occupation safer, more sanitary, and more organized.
“The police have said…that when we have tables, when we have tents, it was neater, it was cleaner,” Kenney said.
“The nurses wanted to stay here, women want to stay here. There’s no privacy. There’s no security here. We’re much cleaner, organized, and more secure when we have those tents here than what you see right now. In fact, we’ve even been told that’s part of the strategy. They’re trying to make us look like ‘dirty hippies’ and homeless. We’ve even heard that the police have been inviting the homeless to come down and join our effort because they know it’ll drain our resources. We have provided them with food, we’ve given them blankets, we’ve given them tarps. We’ve done everything we can to make sure our brothers and sisters who are homeless are taken care of here. We have not seen the same light coming from the police at all.”
Occupy San Diego has drafted a resolution similar to those approved in Irvine, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, which would deem an occupation with structures such as tents and tables protected by First Amendment freedom of speech rights.
And while yesterday protesters attended the city council meeting for the fourth consecutive week, the resolution has yet to even make it on the agenda.
Meanwhile, the Sheriff is shopping around for riot control munitions including chemical projectiles and chemical, smoke, and stinger grenades (see full list here).