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Occupy Iowa ignores several IC ordinances

BY KRISTEN EAST | OCTOBER 07, 2011 7:20 AM

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Occupy Iowa protesters say they are well within their First Amendment rights to gather at College Green Park today, despite the assembly violating several Iowa City ordinances.

City codes require a permit to assemble at College Green for gatherings of more than 100 people.

"My personal opinion is that getting a permit allows the city to call the shots," said Shay O'Reilly, a Daily Iowan columnist who helped facilitate Wednesday's general assembly meeting. "It would state that having the public space is not ours to use."

Occupy Iowa and Rally to End the War protests are taking place today, with the antiwar rally starting at 4:30 p.m. at the intersection of Clinton and Washington Streets. Protesters will make their way to College Green by 6 p.m.

The Occupy Iowa demonstration is one of many "Occupy" movements cropping up across the nation in conjunction with the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York.

Nobody identifying themselves with the Occupy Iowa demonstration has filed a permit for occupying College Green as of Thursday night, city officials said. Occupy Iowa organizers said they will submit a letter to city officials to notify them of their presence at the park.

Iowa City police Sgt. Denise Brotherton said though there will not be added police force, officers will be monitoring the assembly.

The Occupy Iowa group will violate the ordinance as protesters plan to occupy College Green overnight, and they have not determined a time they'll break up the demonstration. The city ordinance requires the group to get permission to be there after 11 p.m.

"A permit is needed for any time that there is a group of more than 100 people, or if that group is bringing in any special equipment, such as a tents or having music," said Tammy Neumann of the city Parks and Recreation Department.

Neumann said permits can be approved fairly quickly — typically within a day or two — depending on how far in the future the event takes place. The park director and park superintendent need to be present to approve the permit.

"The park ordinance is basically put in place to keep people from long-term camping in the park," Brotherton said.

Brotherton said the Iowa City police were contacted by someone Wednesday night inquiring about permits. The person was referred to the City Manager's Office. The office wasn't contacted on Thursday by anyone identifying themselves as being with the protests.

Iowa City police said public safety was their primary concern as several protests start today.

"Our main concern is the safety of the community," Brotherton said. "Part of the community is people involved in the demonstration. Obviously, we'll monitor for the safety of everybody."

She said there have been several recent, peaceful demonstrations and protests, and Iowa City police know how to react in those situations.

"We have training in these situations, and [a protest] is not something unexpected," she said. "It's not anything that hasn't been dealt with before or that we wouldn't expect. That's part of the liveliness of a diverse [city]."

Brotherton said Iowa City police ultimately want protesters to be mindful of the city and its citizens throughout the protest.

"Obviously, we encourage everyone to work with the city to have a successful [demonstration], so they can get their point across or voice what they need to," Brotherton said. "We encourage everyone to consider the community."


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