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Police arrest 4 protesters, clear Occupy camp in Washington town


This news story was published on December 29, 2011.
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By Zoe Fraley, McClatchy Newspapers

BELLINGHAM, Wash. _ Police dressed in riot gear cleared the Occupy Bellingham camp at Maritime Heritage Park, arresting four protesters who refused to leave Wednesday.

Shortly after 1 p.m. PST police moved the last of the protesters from the park, where they had been camping since late October.

No weapons were used and there were no injuries.

Protesters gathered on the sidewalk, then marched to City Hall where they met to discuss their next move.
The arrests began about 12:30 p.m., 3 { hours after the deadline the city had given the campers. The original deadline for the campers to leave the park had been 9 a.m., according to an eviction notice served Tuesday on the campers.

But with some campers taking down tents Wednesday morning and others discussing staying in defiance of the order, police announced shortly before 9:30 a.m. they had two more hours. After that, officers made clear, anyone who remained would be arrested.

About 40 Occupy members were at the camp Wednesday morning. Several vowed to stay at least until police moved in.

The eviction notice was signed by Mayor Dan Pike and the parks department director. Campers were ordered to leave the park, clear out all belongings and trash, and repair any damage by Wednesday morning. It warned that those who refused could face arrest.

City officials had allowed the camp since Occupy members set it up in late October. But Pike said Tuesday that the city needed to enforce the laws and that the movement needed to find a new way to spread its message, one that didn’t cost the city.

“Our interest is trying to get the park restored as soon as possible,” said parks employee Marvin Harris.

Occupy members were angered by the city’s move and spent much of Tuesday in meetings with their legal adviser. Other cities across the state and country have evicted Occupy camps from public spaces.

Bellingham Occupy member Jim Robitaille described the day as sad, lonesome and depressing. But even if the encampment is removed, he said it won’t put an end to the Occupy movement in the city.

“The problem we all camped here for is still a problem. The system is still broken,” he said Wednesday morning. “We’ve only scratched the surface so far, but we’re not giving up.”

The movement’s next step has yet to be determined, he said.

“This is forcing us to reorganize, rethink and plan for the next objective and the next direct action,” he said. “The mayor, the city and the police department have not seen the last of us. We’re here for the long run.”

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