Local News

City juggles free speech, law in handling 'Occupy Raleigh' protest

Posted November 1, 2011
Updated November 8, 2011

— Raleigh's police chief said Tuesday that anti-Wall Street protests in the Capital City are going well, despite arrests in recent weeks, and protesters are asking City Council for a permanent place to gather. 

Since the demonstrators began their occupation outside the State Capitol about three weeks ago, 28 people have been arrested, Raleigh Police Chief Harry Dolan said. Still, he added, the protest has caused "very few problems" on the whole.

"The protesters have been very cooperative," Dolan said. "We're all working diligently to protect everyone's rights, but at the same time, it's about everyone's rights and everyone's access to the public property."

Dolan's comments came after a meeting with Mayor Charles Meeker, City Manager Russell Allen and other city leaders on the mayor's concerns about the police department's role in arrests last Thursday on the sidewalk next to the Capitol.

The Raleigh Police Department has spent more than $50,000 assisting Capitol Police with the protests.

"I just want to know what the scope of our obligations is," Meeker said. "Apparently, we’re supposed to respond all the time. I want to be sure it’s understood exactly what the rules are so the City Council knows and so our public knows."

'Occupy Raleigh' asks city for permanent gathering place 'Occupy Raleigh' asks city for permanent gathering place

Allen and the city attorney told Meeker that the police department has a mutual aid agreement with the Capitol Police. 

Capitol Police Chief Scott Hunter said his officers handled large groups of demonstrators without assistance in the past, but state budget cuts that took effect in July sliced the force nearly in half. They went from 89 to 49 personnel and eliminated their entire vehicle patrol, Hunter said.

Now they need Raleigh's help.

Joseph Huberman, who's organized the Occupy Raleigh demonstration, about 200 other protesters attended the City Council meeting Tuesday evening to ask permission to set up a base for the demonstration behind City Hall.

"Raleigh is a great city, and we need to show the world that free expression, even free expression that causes some disruption, is a welcome part of our American city," Huberman said.

He said the group needs a "main base of operation," where demonstrators can set up shelter and food without being in danger of blocking the sidewalks.

They are looking at a park on the corner of Morgan and Dawson streets.

"It’s only two blocks from the Capitol, so we can maintain a contingent that would be just walking with signs in front of the Capitol," Huberman said.

Council members said they want to protect the group's First Amendment rights, but are worried that if they bend the rules for one group, they must bend them for all. They referred Occupy Raleigh's request to set up a base to the council's law and public safety committee, which meets next Tuesday.

Protesters said they hope the City Council and police will continue to work with the movement so that they can continue to voice their opinions freely and peacefully.

Kurt Zehnder said the protesters are trying to obey local ordinances, but there's been some confusion about the rules.

"People have acted professionally, but, at the same time, there's been a constant disconnect and miscommunication between different law enforcement agencies and our group as to what we are allowed to do and what we are not allowed to do," he said.

262 Comments

This story is closed for comments. Comments on WRAL.com news stories are accepted and moderated between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Oldest First
View all
  • mrman2a Nov 3, 11:59 a.m.

    I feel sorry for all of shepard obamas foolish sheep.When the wolf comes he will be gone and you will be all alone to be eaten.

  • lobgill7 Nov 2, 5:05 p.m.

    Eventually Obama will have to demand something to be done after this drags on about till spring. OWS can not do anything but hurt his re-election attempt. You folks be ready to be sold out by the democrats.

  • mep Nov 2, 4:59 p.m.

    KEEPING....are you like 10? If 50% are paying no income taxes then we are halfway back to the Constitution. Ever read it? You are a 100% TV programmed two party sheep. No "everyone" should not pay income tax Adolf. Income is unapportioned and cannot be taxed. Stay in school little boy. Seriously!

    Dang... could you please inform FICA of this fact? For some reason FICA takes a large chunk of my gross paycheck each week! How can I stop this? Worse yet, at the end of the year I'm forced by the IRS to fill out a 1040 form, that somehow always indicates I did not give FICA enough of my pay....so how is that not taxation on my income? Further, having read the Constitution I believe it does support taxation for common defense etc. But hey, if I dont have to pay taxes, please tell me how, and how not paying them will keep me from losing my home to a govt lien or going to jail.

  • mmtlash Nov 2, 4:43 p.m.

    looks like they are looking for the ok to move in

  • Follow_The_Money27617 Nov 2, 4:43 p.m.

    MEP....are you like 10? If 50% are paying no income taxes then we are halfway back to the Constitution. Ever read it? You are a 100% TV programmed two party sheep. No "everyone" should not pay income tax Adolf. Income is unapportioned and cannot be taxed. Stay in school little boy. Seriously!

  • mep Nov 2, 4:33 p.m.

    corgimom06... Yes taxation is considered normal and necessary for society. But if 50% of Americans are not paying any Federal income taxes at all, how is THAT considered fair for the other 50%. Then on top of that insult, folks are calling for even more taxation on the ones already paying the bulk of the bills. The "reasoning" that they can somehow afford it is not a reason to justify theft which would be taking money from someone "just because" and not giving them a say in the matter. And HOW is that taxation going to solve the economic and unemployment problems? YOU want fair? You want EVERYONE to pay their fair share of the taxes? Then do away with income taxes and go to a flat consumption tax on everything except necessities. EVERYONE should pay, and pay the same. Dont fall for the class warfare or envy trick.

  • pbjbeach Nov 2, 4:16 p.m.

    My own personal regret is that i live to far from Raleigh to be a particpant in the o.w.r. movement for if i were closer i would be right there every day to march an protest along with them an i do support them. if i new where to send them i would even help to buy them some blankets for the up comming cold weather. signed a supporter of the movement. go o.w.r. thank you

  • corgimom06 Nov 2, 4:16 p.m.

    And yes when someone takes my money and gives me no say in the matter... that's called theft. Stay on topic.
    mep

    Actually that is called part of living in a civilized society. If we want roads, bridges, schools, the military, police, firemen, then you have to pay for it through taxes. The reason you are able to work and pay your bills is because of the things listed above that allow you to live in a society rather than chaos. But everyone needs to pay their fair share and right now the top 1% do not which is a big part of the problem.

  • bigal02282 Nov 2, 4:07 p.m.

    Thanks Scaramouche, the water helped a bit.

  • Follow_The_Money27617 Nov 2, 4:01 p.m.

    More violence in one day with the Occupy Wall Streeters than in the past 4 years of the Tea Party. Rapes, robberies, assaults, happening every day.....but they are peaceful, they just don't know how to clean up after themselves. Now they have a new problem, $550,000 has been given to them and they don't know what to do with it, whose is it, who is responsible for it? A believe Van Jones can help them with that. He can post a few communist advertisments on MSNBC, radio, and NY Times.
    whatusay
    November 2, 2011 3:45 p.m.
    Report abuse

    Van Jones? Who told you that? FOX? It was Stephan Colbert.

More...