K. Mennem 7:17 p.m., June 17
After once again being forcibly removed from the Civic Center Plaza by police and sheriff’s officers clad in riot gear, Occupy San Diego has returned.
Last night at around 2 a.m., reports began circulating that another raid of the group’s overnight camp was under way. After twice being removed from the plaza in the past month, police have prevented the group from entering the area with personal property, erecting barricades along the east entrance fronting Third Avenue. They have, however, allowed the group to sleep on a small patch of grass outside the plaza entrance. This permission, according to Eugene Davidovich, a member of Occupy and medical marijuana activist with Americans for Safe Access, was directly granted by Sgt. Mark Jones.
A report by Frank Gormlie of the OB Rag states as many as 100 officers, under the direction of police chief William Lansdowne, struck the camp without warning and ousted up to four dozen sleeping protesters. Five arrests were reported, and personal property including bedding, tents, and donated food was confiscated.
“They’re spending thousands and thousands of dollars of our money arresting us,” Gormlie said later to a group of about 75 Occupiers after a march to re-occupy the plaza, critical of the costs police have elected to incur in enforcement on what, by most accounts, has been a demonstration relatively devoid of violence. “How much money is the city spending — no, how much money is the city wasting, money that the city doesn’t have?”
Sgt. Tony Lessa explained the reason for the forced removal of occupiers was their unsanitary condition, saying the protesters were living among urine, feces, fleas, and rats. He also said hypodermic needles had been found in the camp, which, along with the nearby sidewalk, was covered with police tape and guarded by several officers by the time the Occupiers returned.
Meanwhile, across the plaza, a monthly naturalization ceremony for new U.S. citizens was letting out. Several wandered over to listen to the open mic speeches being delivered by bullhorn. Two tents and tables were set up, one pushing new citizens to register to vote as Democrats, the other as Republicans. Occupiers questioned whether the political party representatives had obtained permits for placing their tents in the plaza, as a lack of permitting was a cited reason for disallowing the personal property of Occupy.
A representative of the Republicans answered in the negative. “This has been going on for 18 years,” he said in confirming the group had never requested permission from the city to set up at the naturalization ceremonies.
“They just basically make us stay out of the corridor,” said Willie H. Douglas, working the Democrats’ booth and also confirming his group had not applied for a permit. He went on to expand that he believed First Amendment rights to free speech allowed for political activity in the square, though he did draw a difference between setting up for a few hours and occupying indefinitely.
Occupy San Diego is planning a press conference this afternoon at 5:00 to discuss the latest police attempt to disband the group and its legal challenge of municipal code section 54.0110, which reads “Unauthorized Enchroachments Prohibited — It is unlawful for any person to erect, place, allow to remain, construct, establish, plant, or maintain any vegetation or object on any public street, alley, sidewalk, highway, or other public property or public right-of-way, except as otherwise provided by this Code.” The group contends the law was originally crafted to address the placement of dumpsters in alleyways but is being interpreted in a fashion not keeping with the spirit of the law in order to create difficulties for protesters.
Police taped off the area where they had previously allowed protesters to sleep:
Occupiers march back into Civic Center Plaza around 10:30 a.m. after late-night raid: