By SAM SCOTT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The Sebastopol City Council will hold a special meeting at 1 p.m. Wednesday to discuss a cluster of protesters camping in the city’s plaza.
On Saturday upwards of 100 people convened downtown for Occupy Sebastopol, the latest local manifestation of the nationwide protest movement.
Since then a half-dozen demonstrators have remained at night, camping in tents despite a city ordinance banning overnight stays in parks without a permit.
So far Sebastopol officials have been hands-off in their response, refraining from issuing citations and opting to keep the plaza bathrooms open at all hours.
But Mayor Guy Wilson said the city needs a longer-term approach. He’s invited all parties, ranging from the protesters to business people, to attend Wednesday’s meeting.
“We are a small town and we have a small plaza,” he said. “We literally do not have the size to handle an occupation.”
The protesters say they’ll be there. They have been eager to demonstrate they are good neighbors, working to clean up the plaza and bathroom.
“We want to support the community,” said Tim Ryan, a student, dishwasher and line cook who said he’s against the country’s devolution from democracy to “corporate-ocracy.” “We really want to open a dialogue.”
The council convened a similar meeting last week after finding fliers calling for the protest. No protesters attended, leaving officials guessing as to their intentions.
Now, several days after the establishment of the camp, city officials have a better sense of the nature of the protest, Sebastopol Police Chief Jeff Weaver said, though he added the city’s information is limited.
“We still have had no one contact the city directly or indirectly to identify themselves as the leader or as part of a leadership team or to seek a permit,” he said. “We still don’t know if they’re leaving Saturday or Saturday in 2013.”
Exactly how long the protesters plan to stay hasn’t been determined yet, though few people seem to mind their presence, Ryan said. So far they’ve received mostly positive feedback from passersby, he said.