published Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

Occupy Chattanooga members not breaking law, officials say


by Naomi Jagoda

by Andrew Pantazi
November 01, 2011.Captain Roddy of Chattanooga Law Enforcement talks with members of Occupy Chattanooga in front of the Hamilton County Court on Tuesday night. Roddy tried to keep the mood light with a few jokes and even returned a high five of one of the protesters.
November 01, 2011.Captain Roddy of Chattanooga Law Enforcement talks with members of Occupy Chattanooga in front of the Hamilton County Court on Tuesday night. Roddy tried to keep the mood light with a few jokes and even returned a high five of one of the protesters.
Photo by Alex Washburn.
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Occupy Chattanooga has found a home -- for now.

Originally, two Occupy Chattanooga protesters, Heidi Davis and Landon Howard, decided they would sleep on the lawn in front of the City Council Building in, what they thought was, disregard to city law.

They expected to be arrested, and they planned to use the arrest to challenge a city law regarding park curfews in court.

Instead, they weren't arrested.

In an interview, City Attorney Mike McMahan said that, off the top of his head, he didn't think it was illegal to camp on the lawn.

Richard Beeland, spokesman for Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield, said they're not doing anything wrong.

"As long as they're abiding by the law they're fine," he said.

The group camped on Lindsay Street after speaking at a Chattanooga City Council meeting Tuesday night where they weren't granted permission to stay indefinitely at Ross's Landing. Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd said he would enforce the city's 10:30 p.m. curfew at public parks.

"They said no to our space, so we shared their space," one of the protesters wrote on a sign Wednesday.

Councilman Peter Murphy said the City Council has to make sure that the parks are being used for their primary purposes: recreation.

"We have to balance the interests of the parks' recreational uses with those who would like to use that place for free speech," he said. "They are viewing their right to assemble and free speech as being paramount and not susceptible to being balanced against other interests. That's not what the Constitution says as interpreted by the Supreme Court."

On the lawn, the group amassed food and supplies for a long-term stay. For food, the group had banana bread, hot chili, chips and cheese dip, orange juice, Cheez-Its, granola bars, cookies, muffins, trail mix and biscuits.

"Loads of carbs," said Miles Dougherty, a baker and protester.

Although only two protesters originally planned to sleep on the lawn, about a half-dozen protesters joined them Tuesday night after Chattanooga police officers said they weren't going to arrest the protesters.

Chattanooga police Officer Mark Shelton told the group that the officers were there to ensure the protesters' safety.

"Do you have a cellphone to call us if you need us?" he asked the group Tuesday night.

On Wednesday, Murphy said that when a group protests, it's the city's job to protect members.

"The city has an obligation to provide some level of security, particularly with protests," he said. "We've had extremist groups come to our city where we had to pull many, many police officers to ensure that the participants can exercise their constitutional rights."

The group eventually agreed to make the lawn an official home base.

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about Andrew Pantazi...

Andrew Pantazi is an intern at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who says that when he was 7 he knew what he wanted to do for the rest of his life: play hockey for the Colorado Avalanche. Unfortunately, he says he wasn't any good at hockey, so he became a journalist instead. He writes about the lives we hide, like the man who suffered a stroke but smiled, or the football walk-on who endured 5 ...

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KWVeteran said...

In the interest of compassion as we approach the Christmas season, I would urge all the homeless to join this cause and swell the ranks of these protesters. They would be most warmly welcomed and well fed.

November 3, 2011 at 8:10 a.m.
joneses said...

KWVeteran. The homeless propably do not have computers to read your post so you will have to gather them up and bring them back to the park that these communist occupiers took over from them. Do you think the communist union psycopaths that infiltrated the Oakland, CA occupiers will be welcome in Chattanooga by these communist occupiers? Leo Gerard, President of the United Steel Workers Union said you occupiers need to be more militant and start taking over bridges. Is this in these communist plans to spread their communist agenda? If you are a Korean War veteran did you know that this is what you were fighting against when you were in the Korean war?

November 3, 2011 at 8:35 p.m.
biofish said...

Just stay off the streets, lol.

November 3, 2011 at 11:13 p.m.
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