By RANDI ROSSMANN and JULIE JOHNSON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The flashlights of about 40 campers and visitors flickered on the Santa Rosa City Hall lawn Sunday as dusk settled over Occupy Santa Rosa’s new camp.
Protesters cleaned up dishes from a donated dinner, pulled tarps over a table of political fliers and prepared for a second night camping at City Hall.
Sleeping on city property keeps protesters and the public focused on the issues of corporate greed that are central to the Occupy Wall Street movement that started in New York, said Karyll Averill, who has been at City Hall each day since Oct. 15.
“If we go home, we’re afraid we’ll go back to sleep,” said Averill, 34, of Santa Rosa.
Saturday night was the first night the city allowed protesters to sleep on the city property, a major deviation from the city’s initial stance on the protest.
Protester Jesse Brown called Saturday night very cold but successful, with about 100 people participating.
Santa Rosa police “shied away. We’re quite happy about that,” Brown said.
Sgt. Mike Neumanville on Sunday morning said there were no problems during the night at the City Hall camp and officers weren’t planning to be there unless issues arose.
Occupy Santa Rosa has been operating since Oct. 15, following a protest that began Sept. 17 in New York when demonstrators began camping in Lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park.
The protests that have spread across the country as well as worldwide have centered around inequality, in particular the outsized political influence of large banks and other corporations.
In Santa Rosa, the effort had begun tapering off in part because the city would not allow protesters to sleep during the night at City Hall in violation of city law.
That was leading to exhaustion on the part of many participants, Brown said.
The effort ramped up with a march Saturday and plans to set up a tent encampment, whether the city liked it or not. City officials announced Saturday they would let the tents stay, for now.
City officials stressed that the prohibition against camping remains. However they’ve instructed Police Department officials to hold off arresting protesters who violate the city’s ordinance against camping until the City Council on Tuesday discusses the matter.
The march drew an estimated 600 people downtown. They’re angry about corporate greed and its stranglehold on the country, said protester Dana Bellwether.
“We’re here until the corporations are no longer running the government,” Bellwether said.
She was enjoying waffles and syrup Sunday morning at the City Hall site.
Coffee and waffles, yoga on the lawn, and dozens of people sitting in the sunshine marked a peaceful morning. At least some of the food and coffee had been donated to the cause by individuals and groups such as Food Not Bombs.
Bellwether appreciated the city’s allowing them to spend the night.
“It was wonderful to go to sleep and not be awakened by a nightstick,” she said, referring to incidents at other Occupy protests around the nation.
YouTube video uploaded Oct. 31, 2011, by Occupy Santa Rosa protester “psychohuman.”