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Occupy Iowa City: Protesters undecided about complying with permit requests

BY MARY KATE KNORR | OCTOBER 19, 2011 7:20 AM

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Occupy Iowa City protesters are conflicted on whether to comply with a suggestion from city officials to obtain a permit.

"We want [them] to just let us not have to worry about silly paperwork," said one of the Occupy protesters who goes by the moniker Ant. "Find out what the real issue is and [be]come involved instead of figuring out the paperwork behind it."

Protesters have discussed the issue since they first occupied College Green Park on Oct. 7. When demonstrators began protesting, city officials said they were exempt from the city code, which would require a permit to assemble.

Though city officials said as protesters continue to remain in College Green, the group's exempt status could change, requiring it to obtain a permit.

Occupiers sent a letter to the city prior to the protest that stated they would camp out indefinitely.
But Iowa City City Manager Tom Markus said eventually, the group will have no choice but to make a decision on the permit.

"At some point, the spontaneous provision runs out," he said. "I think that the average person would contend that after a certain period of time, it's time to move on to the next stage. The next stage would be a permit."

On Oct. 14, Markus and the Parks and Recreation Director Mike Moran approached protesters at College Green to discuss future measures of the movement.

"We just wanted to discuss the permit option with them," Moran said.

Markus said city officials hoped to initiate a dialogue between protesters and the city to communicate what needs to be done to respect the protesters' right to free speech while still abiding by city regulations.

Some demonstrators are conflicted about whether they should comply with the city's request.

Though obtaining a permit would allow protesters to stay in the park legally, some argue it would defeat the group's purpose.

"It's not about whether we're permitted to do it or not — we're doing it," Ant said. "If it's going to be about paperwork, we already sent them the paperwork that says we're [protesting]."

For now, Iowa City officials are unsure of what to expect from protesters. Markus said there is no way to characterize what the group feels at this point.

"The way that I understand it is that they conduct their business through general assembly," Markus said. "They were very polite, they were receptive in the conversation. We conveyed our message, we asked them to consider it and get back to us."

There will be a second meeting today at College Green to continue dialogue between the protesters and city officials.

Both protesters and Markus said they intend to maintain peaceful talks, and Markus said officials are willing to hold periodic meetings with occupiers when needed.

"We want to show them that we can respect each other, so let's mutually respect each other," Ant said. "Let us show what human beings really are and not human beings on paperwork."


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