Henry James Ferry
An overnight police raid at Memorial Park in Mobile, AL resulted in 20 protesters arrested. Some of the arrests appeared to be violent. Police had earlier removed the group from Spanish Plaza where they camped in tents for four days. All arrested were charged with 3rd Degree Criminal Trespassing.
Video captured live on Ustream showed some protesters dragged from the park, including one man who suffered abrasions to his back and head which struck the memorial steps. As police threatened arrests, some could be heard pleading with the officers.
“Anyone who watched the video would see the officers were polite, they said please and thank you, they gave clear instructions, and only after they did not follow those instructions were they arrested,” Cpl. Chris Levy with Mobile Police told FOX10tv.com.
“We asserted the fact that we have the right of assembly under the Constitution, both the Alabama Constitution and the US Constitution,” said Tyler Henderson, 23. “Both of those trump any city ordinance in any city, anywhere. They began to take us out by force. Many [protesters] were injured in the process.”
The confrontation had been brewing for days, after Mayor Sam Jones instructed demonstrators to leave their earlier encampment on Wednesday morning. The eviction was then pushed up to Tuesday at noon. Despite the new deadline, protesters voluntarily left Spanish Plaza packing up belongings as they left. A parade for Veterans Day is planned for this coming Saturday.
“We are moving for the veterans because we respect the sacrifice they made so we can even be here,” Michael Lynch told the Mobile Press-Register on Tuesday. The move was made after the Mayor’s office posted an effective deadline to leave Spanish Plaza.
“I’m not sure what the exact plans are yet,” said Emilee Shuler. “I guess we’ll decide that in a general assembly. For the most part we plan on finding a place. We’re not going to fizzle out and die, that’s for sure.”
“I respect the right of free speech, guaranteed under the US Constitution. However, that right does not allow the occupation of public parks and facilities without permission,” Mayor Jones said in an earlier statement reported by the Mobile Press-Register. His words were seized upon by the protesters.
“This is public property. We are taxpayers, are we not? Is this not public property? Do we not pay for this?” Caleb Rogers, 24, told FOX10tv.com. “I think it’s ridiculous and unconstitutional.”
A group of 50 arrived unannounced at Memorial Park late Tuesday evening to stage a General Assembly, including more than 20 people who drove from Pensacola, FL after hearing of the earlier eviction. Police confirmed some of those arrested had “out-of-state” drivers licenses. After almost an hour in the park, squad cars shining bright spotlights appeared.
The group was then seen on a live stream singing “God Bless America” and “This Land is Your Land” as more police arrived. The grainy video mostly captured audible shouts of other protesters. “ We were not given five minutes!” and “Do not break his arm, officer!” could be heard. Another yelled: “These are not criminals. These are people. They are not resisting!”
Those arrested were taken to Metro country jail and given $500 bail. By 4:30am, police released several of them. At least 10 remained in jail on Wednesday afternoon, according to Hendersen.
At a noon press conference today with local media, Henderson described the scene of arrests and the injured arrestees. One reporter asked what the group hoped to accomplish.
“We’re bringing awareness to a large scope of issues. If anyone wants to know any of these issues, to become more educated on the issues, please contact us. We welcome you, we want to talk to you.”
He was also asked where Occupy Mobile goes forward after the group saw its first arrests.
“If anything, this has strengthened our movement considerably. We’ve received messages of support from New York, California, all over the United States of America,” he said. “Anyone that wants to can see what actually happened last night.”
There are reports that the group will assemble for a fifth consecutive night on Wednesday.