By JULIE JOHNSON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The “Occupy Santa Rosa” protest moved into its second day Sunday as demonstrators spent the night outside City Hall and vowed to stay there indefinitely.
About 50 protesters remained clustered outside City Hall on Sunday morning, discussing economics in circles on the lawn and waving signs on the corner that decried corporate greed.
No one was arrested for spending the night on city property, Santa Rosa police said.
“The cops were very friendly,” said Frank Anderson, 19, a Santa Rosa Junior College business student. “We had a plan and are acting on it.”
The uneventful night came after the city manager’s office declined a request by the group for a permit to camp at City Hall. Police Chief Tom Schwedhelm said Friday that violators could be cited and arrested if they set up camps on city property.
Protesters said they were careful to not sleep, roll out sleeping bags or otherwise appear to be camping to comply with city laws.
Protesters may remain in the area overnight as long as they comply with city ordinances that forbid them from “sleeping, cooking or setting up household items,” Schwedhelm said Sunday.
Many said they planned to stay indefinitely.
“There is no end date,” said Brice Davis, a demonstrator on the steps of City Hall.
On Sunday night, in a community discussion, protesters agreed they would be careful not to interfere Monday with city employees or anyone doing business at City Hall.
At the same time, they also discussed appearing at Tuesday’s Santa Rosa City Council meeting for the public comment portion, where anyone can address the council on matters not on the agenda.
One proposal that appeared to meet with consensus from the occupiers Sunday night was to ask the city and the County of Sonoma governments to “immediately remove all local government funds — our money — from the criminal banking cartels such as but not limited to Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Citibank, Chase, JP Morgan, and deposit them in locally based Sonoma County banks and credit unions …”
The demonstration began Saturday, when more than 2,500 people marched through downtown Santa Rosa in support of the ongoing “Occupy Wall Street” protest in New York.
Mid-morning Sunday, about 45 people ate donated oatmeal and sipped coffee outside Santa Rosa City Hall, gathering into a circle to make a plan for the day. Cardboard signs surrounded the group with handwritten slogans such as “Occupy Earth” and “Stop Corporate Welfare.”
Anderson led a meeting to plan discussion groups to educate each other about economics and come up with unified messages.
They used hand gestures to indicate whether they agreed or disagreed with the speaker, a technique often used with a consensus-based cooperative planning.
SRJC anthropology student Francisco Diaz, 25, sat under a tree to brainstorm with Eduardo Wolbert, 25, an unemployed recent graduate, about whether they should hold another march or organize another kind of activity.
At the curb, Jerzy Bomberger, 29, a software developer from Santa Rosa, stood among a row of people waving signs.
Many motorists honked and flashed peace signs as they drove by.
Banks hold too much power, said Bomberger, echoing a sentiment shared among many on the City Hall steps.
Retired physician Sage Keaten, 55, said she was frustrated with the Obama administration’s inability to curb the recession.
“The stories defy description,” she said of foreclosures and unending unemployment among people she knows. “I feel morally compelled to be here. I cannot just stand by.”
Police officers reported that 50 people were on City Hall steps at 9 p.m. Saturday. The crowd dwindled to 40 people by midnight and 20 people by 6 a.m., Schwedhelm said.
By Sunday night it had grown again to about 75 people.
Schwedhelm said he updated the city manager’s office staff Sunday on the protest, and officers would continue to make sure the demonstrators comply with the law.
However, so far officers had not observed illegal behavior, Schwedhelm said. “Arresting them for being at City Hall would mean their mere presence would be against the law, and that’s not the case.”
Protesters said police had been cordial.
“One officer who showed up, we called him ‘Officer Happy,’” said Brice. “He didn’t take any actions. I guess we’re in compliance.”
At least two overnight protesters did catch a few winks.
Jasmine Averill, 5, and her 3-year-old sister, Liliana, slept in blankets under the watchful eye of their mother, Karyl Averill, 34, of Santa Rosa.
“This protest is for their future,” said Averill, whose husband is unemployed.
Averill helped each of her daughters create signs for a cause of their choosing, she said.
Her younger daughter, in head-to-toe pink, colored in a heart with a pink crayon on green construction paper and asked her mother to tape it to a stick.
“I’m making a love heart because I love my mom,” said Liliana. “And my dad.”
Her older sister stood with a row of protesters waving signs at Santa Rosa motorists.
Her sign read simply: “Be good.”