‘Occupy Santa Rosa’ demonstrators can’t camp at City Hall

‘Occupy Santa Rosa’ demonstrators can’t camp at City Hall

Santa Rosa officials denied a request Friday from organizers of “Occupy Santa Rosa” to camp overnight at City Hall following Saturday’s demonstration, which is expected to draw as many as 1,000 people.

Activists will be allowed to rally at the corner of Sonoma and Santa Rosa avenues beginning at 2 p.m. and march on downtown streets, but a request to camp until Dec. 24 was rejected, said Kathy Millison, Santa Rosa’s city manager.

Camping on city property is allowed only by special permission in designated parks, she said.

“City Hall is not a park and is not equipped to handle overnight camping,” Millison said.

Those who camp anyway will be warned to leave. If they remain they could be cited and face arrest, police Chief Tom Schwedhelm said. Extra officers will be on duty to ensure a safe demonstration, he said.

Schwedhelm said he met with organizers and urged voluntary compliance.

“Obviously, we don’t want to have to force anyone,” he said.

Organizer Sage Keaten said an unknown number of demonstrators plan to stay and “occupy” City Hall.

Those protestors will likely be people who can afford a citation or a trip to jail. But she said she hopes it doesn’t come to that.

“We’re basically peace oriented,” she said. “We’re not trying to have a scene. But some people are willing to get arrested if need be.”

The protest against the country’s wealthiest few mirrors others across the nation. Demonstrators are decrying what they see as the unfair influence of the richest 1 percent of the population over the rest of the country.

It all began with the Occupy Wall Street protests that began last month.

“The point is to make a clear statement that we the people are not happy with the economic powers usurping our democracy, our government and media,” Keaten said.

The Santa Rosa rally will begin with speeches from labor leaders, immigrants’ rights advocates and social justice proponents.

A march to nearby financial institutions will follow. Keaten said the plan is to encircle Bank of America, Citibank and Wells Fargo.

An “Occupy” rally in Sonoma at the town plaza Friday night drew hundreds of people.

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