By PAUL PAYNE
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Occupy Santa Rosa protesters brought their demonstration to the City Council on Tuesday, calling for the withdrawal of public funds from major financial institutions such as Bank of America and Wells Fargo.
They also brought a list of more mundane requests including an amendment of an ordinance that prohibits camping at City Hall and permission to install a portable toilet.
It was unclear if the council would consider at a future meeting divesting its money or changing its policy on overnight stays. Officials were not immediately available to identify the financial institutions used by the city.
But the 100 or so protesters who have been “occupying” City Hall in shifts since Saturday night likely will be getting a toilet.
“We need a port-a-potty and we’ve had three people offer to pay for it,” organizer Sage Keaten, 55, told the council. “We’re not asking for money. We just need a place to put it.”
Mayor Ernesto Olivares directed City Manager Kathy Millison to accommodate the protesters, who have vowed to cooperate with the city in other matters such as picking up trash and refraining from smoking or drinking.
The concession came at the beginning of the fourth night of overnight demonstrations modeled on protests that began last month on Wall Street.
Organizers promised to remain until at least Christmas Eve when their New York counterparts will vote on whether to extend that occupation.
“We’re still here,” said organizer Brenden Homan, 20, of Santa Rosa.
Homan said a group of more than 100 protesters will pull shifts of various lengths. He said they were “young and old, unemployed and 9-to-5ers, hippies and Libertarians.”
“We’ve got everybody,” he said.
As the sun set Tuesday, temperatures dropped and a cold wind blew through downtown. A group 0f 20-somethings huddled around containers of donated food while a half-dozen people waved signs along Santa Rosa Avenue.
Still others gathered across the street from City Hall for cigarette breaks.
“I’ve got a jacket and a sleeping bag and whatnot,” said Amber Kolbeck, 20, of Santa Rosa, who was planning to spend the night. However, the police department has warned that sleeping bags are not permitted because of the city’s ban on camping.
Protesters were buoyed by the positive City Council reception but also by the estimated 2,750 people who marched Saturday — which the New York Times reported was the sixth largest turnout in the nation. The newspaper wrote Monday that more people were at the Occupy Santa Rosa rally than similar events in Chicago and Washington, D.C.
Homan attributed the success in part to his Facebook and Twitter posts. Nearly 1,000 people responded on Facebook saying they would attend.
But others pointed to Sonoma County’s well-organized activist network.
David Walls, another Occupy organizer and retired Sonoma State University sociology professor, said established antiwar, antinuclear power and environmental groups were quick to mobilize.
“When the right spark lights a flame, they can really turn out,” Walls said.
Still, that might not explain what has been described by some as the large number of mainstream demonstrators on Saturday.
Lisa Maldonado, executive director of the North Bay Labor Council, said resentment over government bailouts and corporate greed drew people who normally don’t go to protests.
“These are people you see at soccer games or wine tastings,” Maldonado said. “They’ve been feeling resentful and angry. They’re people who opened their 401(k)s and got pissed off. That’s when people say, ‘I’m going.’ “