Occupy a Port-A-Potty Blues

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PostTue Nov 01, 2011 8:39 pm » by Constabul

In a few of my exchanges with a few members here, I seemed it was prudent to provide examples of why Permitting is apart of any Public gathering, be it for protests, concerts, or the circus, As most cities are going beyond there obligation to provide a environment for the first amendment to be practiced. When no constitutional law sets a premise where anything is to be provided, or any exceptions made for the first amendment, and those using its cloak to protest for long periods of time.

When it comes to the cost, of clean up, over time, repair to damaged areas or provided services. The 1% is not paying for the cost of inaction. It is the Average tax payer, who has a job, and is working to pay for their homes, who feels the repercussions.

WASHINGTON -- Occupy Dallas protesters have been camping on a swath of downtown land since Oct. 7. The spot, known as Pioneer Park, has come to resemble a mini-city with tents, food service, a "fire watch team" and a fully stocked medical unit. The protesters also boast a library, a music tent, an arts area and, for a few hours a day, childcare services. They have almost everything a large group needs.

Everything except toilets.

Late at night, Occupy members have to walk as much as a half-mile to find the nearest public restroom that's open. Dallas activists thought the problem needed immediate redress. So they applied for a permit for the occupation, which, the thinking went, would allow them to set up portable toilets.

These quickly became very, very expensive toilets. Dallas city officials argued that the permit requires $1 million in commercial general liability insurance coverage. City spokesman Frank Librio released a statement saying the city would not back down from its demand: "The City had an agreement with Occupy Dallas to remain on the public property provided standard insurance coverage was obtained. The group did not meet the insurance requirements per the agreement. Therefore, the agreement is no longer applicable. The City will begin enforcing local laws (for example: park curfews and sleeping in public)." The mayor's office refused comment to HuffPost.

Michael Prestonise, a 26-year-old freelance web designer and protester, said that the argument still comes down to toilets. "This is all about sanitation and health and safety of our members," he said. "I think the more real threat is our people having to walk through the streets at 3, 4 a.m. just to find a public restroom."

Other occupation sites have faced similar scrutiny from civic minders. The activists at New York's Zuccotti Park are facing possible eviction over cleaning.

The fight over the Dallas permit has led to the threat of eviction, arrests, and a court case. On Wednesday, lawyers for Occupy Dallas filed a civil complaint and a motion for a temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction in federal court in an effort to stave off eviction. The complaint states: Plaintiffs' actions involve a matter of political, social, or other concern and are constitutionally protected under the First Amendment. Furthermore, plaintiffs' interest in their actions outweighs any interest of the City of Dallas in promoting the efficient operation and administration of government services.
The lawyers argued in the complaint that the insurance requirement applies only to "special events" that could bring 5,000 or more participants. Occupy Dallas has about 130 people camping out. The complaint goes to say that organizers contacted the city's recommended insurance agent, who turned them away.

Occupy Dallas adds that the land on which protesters are camping is not city property. "There should be no permit," Cameron Gray, an Occupy lawyer, told HuffPost. "They should be able to exercise their First Amendment rights."

Negotiations with the city have stalled, Gray said. "We're in a holding pattern."

Both parties will be making their case before a judge on Friday.

Gray said that if Occupy Dallas loses in court, it won't make a difference to the protest plans. Activists have vowed to remain on site with or without toilets. All this fighting, though, may be unnecessary.

An insurance company has come forward with an offer to help, Gray explained. "It appears that we will be able to post that insurance if that becomes a condition of the court's ruling," he said.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/1 ... 09534.html

As temperatures drop with each passing day, frigid weather isn't the only thing testing the resolve of Occupy Kamloops participants.

Bathroom access is providing its own, troublesome challenge.

About a dozen people have been camping at a municipal park off Yew Street since Oct. 15 in solidarity with the global Occupy Wall Street movement.

On Thursday, City officials ordered the removal of an onsite portable toilet, saying it violated City bylaws because there was no permit for it.

"For sanitation reasons, we wanted it to stay," camp participant Wayne Szoo said Friday.

"We wanted to keep the porta potty here until Tuesday until we could resolve the misunderstanding."

The toilet arrived midweek, its one-month rental payment donated by a camp supporter.

But it came without a City permit — to a site whose occupants were already violating City laws by camping on a public park.

City official Len Hrycan, whose department oversees bylaw enforcement, said the City simply couldn't ignore this additional violation.

"They've been very respectful of the park area . . . but the issue is that they're seeking some type of endorsement from the municipality to be there and to legitimize their use and to have other types of facilities brought into that location," said Hyrcan.

"And we're not able to do that because they are contravening municipal bylaws."

So Hrycan has told the group to plead its case to the City's politicians, which the group plans to do at Tuesday's council meeting.

"Up until this time, the City has been very gracious and very accommodating to the (Occupy Kamloops) project," said George Feenstra, a United Church minister and camp participant.

"For some reason, a decision was made to change that posture. We've been in violation of several bylaws, etc., and they've been tolerant of that — so we're curious as to why, at this point, they've chosen to become intolerant."

Mayor Peter Milobar says it's an issue of balance — between the group's right to protest peacefully and the neighbourhood's right to a protest-free neighbourhood.

"What line do you start crossing each time?" said Milobar.

"It has operated very well over the first two weeks and I don't see the need to have to start escalating the services that are provided out there."

Right now, the camp's participants are using bathrooms at nearby businesses, paying for the privilege by buying cups of coffee or snacks. A nearby homeowner has also allowed campers to use her bathroom.

But none of those options carries a long-term guarantee and, as the group digs in for what could be many more weeks of park occupation, its members are hoping City council will allow for the return of the porta potty.

"Hygiene is pretty basic, and to be denied that is ridiculous," said Athena Papadimitropoulos, a care aide who spends her off-work hours at the camp.

"I think the porta potty issue is a really good example of how when people collectively get together to take responsibility it's actually denied. The laws are used against us."
http://www.kamloopsnews.ca/article/2011 ... d-lenience

Cities fret over democracy's costs as 'Occupy Wall Street' stretches on

Cities see costs mount as they supply security and other services at Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. What are cities' First Amendment obligations to the protesters?

Boston Image
Demonstrators walk through the make-shift tent city as part of the Occupy D.C. demonstration at Freedom Plaza, in Washington on Tuesday. Many municipalities are complaining that the costs of police overtime, trash pickup, and portable toilets associated with the protest movement are straining their budgets.

Almost a month into the "Occupy Wall Street" protests, mutterings and murmurings are being heard among officials in US cities that are playing host. Their beef: The cost of ensuring public safety and providing sanitation is rising into the millions. Police overtime alone amounted to $1.9 million during three weeks of anti-Wall Street demonstrations in New York, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said last week. In Boston, the tab for police overtime is estimated to reach $2 million if the protest continues through the end of October, said the city council president this week. And that doesn't include other costs, such as extra trash pickup, portable toilets, and even electricity being supplied to the protesters' tent cities.

Yes, free expression can whack a big dent in the ol' city budget. But cities have little recourse other than to absorb the hit, as "the cost of democracy," says Mary-Rose Papandrea, an associate professor at Boston College Law School, in a phone interview.
“Cities find these kinds of protests really disruptive," she says, "so it’s natural for them to put a dollar sign on what it’s costing in order to raise opposition to the protesters.” Of course, no one complains about the added city costs of providing security during other kinds of mass public gatherings, she notes. “Had the Red Sox gone to the World Series this year, the cost to the police department could have been way more than these protests.”

But as the Occupy protests continue with no end in sight, the worry lines are deepening on the faces of some city officials.

“I don’t think it’s the activists’ intention to break the public treasury here, but that’s what’s happening,” says Stephen Murphy, Boston City Council president, in a phone interview. “We’re concerned about making the city’s streets, playgrounds, and parks clean and safe, but each of those may wind up taking less because of these protests.”

Boston has budgeted $30 million for police overtime for the fiscal year, he says, but a monthly tab of $2 million from Occupy Boston protests over and above usual crowd-control costs will send the city straight into the red.

Boston Police Department spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll says no official cost figures are available, but citywide concern for the budget is clear and growing. “Naturally, safety is a top priority, but so is being fiscally responsible,” Ms. Driscoll says. “It’s a delicate balance.”

To protesters and their supporters, the whole issue of city cost is specious and wrong-headed.

“If we achieve any of the reforms we’re currently discussing, that amount of money would be massive in comparison to the costs of the protests,” says protester Stephen Squibb, a graduate student at Harvard. “To dwell only on the costs, which have not been verified, would mean there is no hope for this protest to make an impact.”

At an Occupy Boston rally Thursday afternoon, Boston City Councilor Felix Arroyo, speaking in solidarity with the protesters, said the cost of not supporting Occupy Boston could be greater than the cost of policing it.

“The question is, though, what the cost is to the city if we don’t change our economic practices now?” he said. “What is the cost to all of us if we continue on this track where 99 percent of the population is essentially struggling and 1 percent has all our wealth.”

So far, Boston has gone above and beyond its First Amendment obligation to the Occupy protesters, notes Richard Fallon, professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School.

“Cities have an obligation to make a space available to engage in speech and protest activities, but nothing more,” Mr. Fallon says.

The city has provided other amenities – free electricity and trash removal, for instance – to the thousands of protesters who have camped out in the small tent city at the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy at Dewey Square. Such services may help a city to deflect criticism that it is antiprotest, and many demonstrators have now come to expect such treatment from cities.

“These decisions are political and are formed by the constitutional sensibilities of the American population, even though no constitutional requirement exists,” says Fallon.

What the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations show most clearly, perhaps, is that protesting is no cheap gig. This movement has already cost millions of dollars in what is likely its infancy. But recent history is rife with other mass gatherings that were more expensive than the Occupy protests.

• In May, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s legislation to end most collective bargaining by public employees triggered massive statehouse demonstrations. Taxpayers shelled out at least $7.8 million to cover the security costs from agencies around the state.

• Last December, the Oakland (Calif.) Police Department spent about $7.5 million on overtime to control Bay Area residents who protested what they saw as a lenient sentence for a BART police officer who fatally shot a man on New Year’s Day in 2009.

• During a wild week between November and December 1999, protests against the World Trade Organization in Seattle cost the city $9.3 million in property damages, loss of sales, and police manpower.

Even the 2007 Red Sox World Series run cost Boston about $1.5 million (though $680,000 were eventually covered by the Red Sox and private businesses).

Those costs are usually seen as a positive impact on the city, observes Mr. Squibb, the Occupy Boston protester.

“If we were another group with any number of local citizens or another local event, there would be a lot of press about how much tourist dollars we’re generating," he says in a phone interview.

Squibb hopes the city ultimately will see the bigger picture.

“We can find hundreds of millions of dollars to supply financiers and fund wars of volition abroad, but we can’t take care of our own, and that’s why we’re trying to take our government back,” he says. “Our protests are really a minor expenditure to preserve democracy in our country.”
http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2011/1014/ ... retches-on

Some of the Occupy Wall Street encampments now spreading across the US have access to "porta-potties" (eg: Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC) or, better yet, restrooms with sinks and running water (as in Fort Wayne, Indiana). Others require their residents to forage for toilet facilities on their own. At Zuccotti Park, just blocks from Wall Street, this means long waits for the restroom at a nearby Burger King - or somewhat shorter queues at a Starbucks a block away. At McPherson Square in DC, a twenty-something occupier showed me the pizza parlour where she can use the facilities during the hours the restaurant is open, as well as the alley she uses late at night. Anyone with restroom-related issues - arising from age, pregnancy, prostate problems or irritable bowel syndrome - should prepare to join the revolution in diapers.

Of course, political protesters do not face the challenges of urban camping alone. Homeless people confront the same issues every day: how to scrape together meals, keep warm at night by covering themselves with cardboard or tarp, and relieve themselves without committing a crime. Public restrooms are sparse in US cities - "as if the need to go to the bathroom does not exist", travel expert Arthur Frommer once observed. And yet to yield to bladder pressure is to risk arrest. A report entitled "Criminalising Crisis", to be released later this month by the National Law Centre on Homelessness and Poverty, recounts the following story from Wenatchee, Washington:

"Toward the end of 2010, a family of two parents and three children that had been experiencing homelessness for a year-and-a-half applied for a two-bedroom apartment. The day before a scheduled meeting with the apartment manager during the final stages of acquiring the lease, the father of the family was arrested for public urination. The arrest occurred at an hour when no public restrooms were available for use. Due to the arrest, the father was unable to make the appointment with the apartment manager and the property was rented out to another person. As of March 2011, the family was still homeless and searching for housing."

Illegal to be homeless

What the Occupy Wall Streeters are beginning to discover, and homeless people have known all along, is that most ordinary, biologically necessary activities are illegal when performed in American streets - not just urinating, but sitting, lying down and sleeping. While laws vary from city to city, one of the harshest is in Sarasota, Florida, which passed an ordinance in 2005 that makes it illegal to "engage in digging or earth-breaking activities" - that is, to build a latrine - cook, make a fire, or be asleep and "when awakened, state that he or she has no other place to live".

It is illegal, in other words, to be homeless or live outdoors for any other reason. It should be noted, though, that there are no laws requiring cities to provide food, shelter or restrooms for their indigent citizens.

The current prohibition on homelessness began to take shape in the 1980s, along with the ferocious growth of the financial industry (Wall Street and all its tributaries throughout the nation). That was also the era in which we stopped being a nation that manufactured much beyond weightless, invisible "financial products", leaving the old industrial working class to carve out a livelihood at places such as Wal-Mart.

As it turned out, the captains of the new "casino economy" - the stock brokers and investment bankers - were highly sensitive, one might say finickity, individuals, easily offended by having to step over the homeless in the streets or bypass them in commuter train stations. In an economy where a centimillionaire could turn into a billionaire overnight, the poor and unwashed were a major buzzkill. Starting with Mayor Rudy Giuliani in New York, city after city passed "broken windows" or "quality of life" ordinances, making it dangerous for the homeless to loiter or, in some cases, even look "indigent", in public spaces.

Story of a pregnant woman

No one has yet tallied all the suffering occasioned by this crackdown - the deaths from cold and exposure - but "Criminalising Crisis" offers this story about a homeless pregnant woman in Columbia, South Carolina:

"During daytime hours, when she could not be inside of a shelter, she attempted to spend time in a museum and was told to leave. She then attempted to sit on a bench outside the museum and was again told to relocate. In several other instances, still during her pregnancy, the woman was told that she could not sit in a local park during the day because she would be 'squatting'. In early 2011, about six months into her pregnancy, the homeless woman began to feel unwell, went to a hospital, and delivered a stillborn child."

Well before Tahrir Square was a twinkle in anyone's eye, and even before the recent recession, homeless Americans had begun to act in their own defence, creating organised encampments, usually tent cities, in vacant lots or wooded areas. These communities often feature various elementary forms of self-governance: food from local charities has to be distributed, latrines dug, rules - such as no drugs, weapons, or violence - enforced. With all due credit to the Egyptian democracy movement, the Spanish indignados, and rebels all over the world, tent cities are the domestic progenitors of the US occupation movement.

There is nothing "political" about these settlements of the homeless - no signs denouncing greed or visits from left-wing luminaries - but they have been treated with far less official forbearance than the occupation encampments of the "American autumn". LA's Skid Row endures constant police harassment, for example, but when it rained, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had ponchos distributed to nearby Occupy LA.

'Out of sight'

All over the country, in the past few years, police have moved in on the tent cities of the homeless, one by one, from Seattle to Wooster, Sacramento to Providence, in raids that often leave the former occupants without even their minimal possessions. In Chattanooga, Tennessee, last summer, a charity outreach worker explained the forcible dispersion of a local tent city by saying: "The city will not tolerate a tent city. That's been made very clear to us. The camps have to be out of sight."

What occupiers from all walks of life are discovering, at least every time they contemplate taking a leak, is that to be homeless in the US is to live like a fugitive. The destitute are our own native-born "illegals", facing prohibitions on the most basic activities of survival. They are not supposed to soil public space with their urine, their faeces or their exhausted bodies. Nor are they supposed to spoil the landscape with their unusual wardrobe choices or body odours. They are, in fact, supposed to die, and preferably to do so without leaving a corpse for the dwindling public sector to transport, process and burn.

But the occupiers are not from all walks of life, just from those walks that slope downwards - from debt, joblessness and foreclosure - leading eventually to pauperism and the streets. Some of the present occupiers were homeless to start with, attracted to the occupation encampments by the prospect of free food and at least temporary shelter from police harassment. Many others are drawn from the borderline-homeless "nouveau poor", and normally encamp on friends' couches or parents' folding beds.

In Portland, Austin and Philadelphia, the Occupy Wall Street movement is taking up the cause of the homeless as its own, which of course it is. Homelessness is not a side issue unconnected to plutocracy and greed. It's where we're all eventually headed - the 99 per cent, or at least the 70 per cent, of us, every debt-loaded college graduate, out-of-work school teacher, and impoverished senior - unless this revolution succeeds.

By now if you are following the Occupy Wall Street movement you may be aware of the critical injury two-time Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen sustained two nights ago at a demonstration in Oakland. Footage of the incident from one of the news organizations covering the demonstration has been re-posted on Move-on.org.

As I noted in last week's blog, I have just returned to Oakland and had intended to go to Occupy Oakland, which is four blocks from my office on Tuesday. My plans were thwarted when, to the shock of many people, the Oakland police moved in on the encampment at 4:30 a.m. Tuesday morning.

In a press conference, the spokesperson for the police noted that they had mobilized 200 police for this action. Protestors were given a choice of leaving immediately with their belongings or being arrested. About 30 left and another 75 were arrested. So, 200 cops in full riot gear cleared out maybe 105 protestors. This, in a city that has no money, and a very progressive mayor, Jean Quan.

The protestors were camped at Frank Ogawa Plaza, which is a beautiful and well-used public space in front of city hall, circled by restaurants and other small businesses. Quite a few nonprofits including the East Bay Community Foundation have offices on or near this Plaza and it is a major BART (subway) stop. As with many public spaces, even prior to Occupy Oakland, it was already "occupied" by a dozen homeless people who hung out during the day and slept in doorways and on benches at night.

I went down Tuesday about noon. Barricades had been set up around the Plaza. Behind the barricades stood a phalanx of police in full riot gear.Inside the barricades, city workers dismantled what remained of the encampment. The police stood about two feet apart, their arms dangling above all the stuff they wear around their waist. What remained of the protestors stood on the sidewalk yelling at each other, the police and passersby. I was struck by the sight: a disciplined line of cops: mixed race, almost equal numbers of men and women, facing an unruly but nonviolent crowd of mostly African American young men and women. The 99% turned on each other while the corporate fat-cats we denounce go on about their business.

I went again Wednesday night about 5:30. By then many of the protestors were back, and the mood was somber. Scott Olsen had been wounded. Mayor Quan had shown herself capable of calling for military like intervention, to the shock of her supporters. You could even catch the occasional fume of tear gas. The protestors still trended young, but were majority white. I was very dressed up because I had done a presentation earlier so I wandered around particularly near the TV people. I hoped I would show up on Channel 5 because well dressed people at protests almost never do. (To my knowledge, I did not break that pattern.) I talked with people, patted their dogs (of which there were quite a few) and met several dozen well-dressed older people in the crowd. The Hare Krishnas were serving food and people were making new posters. The police were not in sight, although two helicopters circling overhead drowned out a lot of the commentary.

A little later I talked with a friend of mine who works for Jean Quan and asked what Jean was thinking. She said the first problem with the Occupy encampment is that there is nothing the city can agree to in order to get them to disperse. There are no demands to the city (to me, part of the genius of this movement). Second, people had started to build fires at night for warmth and cooking and we are at the height of fire season. If something had caught fire, the entire camp would have been up in flames in a few minutes and people would have been hurt and killed. (Fire is a very real and scary prospect to Bay Area people who years ago witnessed 1000 homes go up in smoke in one evening). Third, the numbers of people had overwhelmed the public bathrooms and port-a-potties. Fourth, dozens more homeless people had moved to the plaza, drawn by regular hot food and better sleeping conditions. Some fights had broken out. The restaurants on the plaza (which have been largely supportive, even supplying some food and coffee) were beginning to wonder how long this would go on. The Mayor's office (the Mayor herself is in Washington DC trying to round up federal money for Oakland) thought something terrible could happen and sought to prevent it.

I had a glimmer of sympathy for the City officials. I don't know why the camping protestors weren't simply asked not to have fires, and why the city didn't provide more port-a-potties, or ask the campers to expand their clean up committee to the bathrooms. But I do imagine that those people in charge of public health and public safety have very mixed feelings about any big gathering of angry people. Ironically, though, the most damage was done by those most sworn to protect us: the police.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has sought to have the 99% understand our common identity, but the reality is that in the 99% there are multiple and conflicting identities, motives and needs. For this movement to move to have a more revolutionary impact, those conflicts will have to be explored. Right now they are simply being exploited, and the one group that isn't really suffering a great deal from OWS is the 1%.
http://www.nonprofitquarterly.org/index ... temid=1071

Amendment I

Freedoms, Petitions, Assembly

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The latter part is not a two part right, You have a right to assemble and petition the Government due to grievances peoples are experiencing .
No where in this right, are you giving the right to assemble and Occupy a public location or have services provided for you during that time period.
What people fail to realize, is that After you have peaceable assembled, and delivered your grievances to the government, and if the government is corrupt, and ignores those grievances, That is when the Second amendment takes place, and quotes from Thomas Jefferson can be used..

There are permitting actions to be taken for holding an event.
Health safety, Insurance for injuries, clean up obligations, policing actions, emergency planning among other things..
That is what protesting for periods of time is, an event.
The problem is that , as the stories indicated, small groups are assembling, and to a large part, vague reasons for protesting are given. No List of grievances, no purposed solutions.
And most cities are allowing them to do so, to a point.
Trying to accommodate them.

But people who are apart of the movement, or support it have little to no concept of these things.(it seems) failing to take action. Sitting in a square, holding signs,.. is not action.

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