Triangle 'Occupy' sites vary in intensity

jwise@newsobserver.comOctober 19, 2011 

— About 35 people gathered at CCB Plaza for a "general assembly" of Occupy Durham Tuesday night, but for the most part, the demonstration took the day off.

Meanwhile, Occupy Chapel Hill continued its occupation of a sidewalk in front of the Franklin Street post office, with 10 tents and some sleeping bags an indication the demonstrators intended to stay.

"Till things are better," Stephanie Daugherty said when asked how long she plans to sleep outside the Franklin Street post office. The 30-year-old unemployed IT worker was among the first 31 people to pitch tents and lay mats Saturday night after an Occupy Chapel Hill rally.

A few protesters also have continued an Occupy Raleigh demonstration on a sidewalk by the Capitol. According to a Tuesday posting on Occupy Raleigh's Facebook page, organizers are calling for people to "Occupy Raleigh for Economic Justice" on Saturday, but have not announced the time or place.

Both Chapel Hill and Durham's demonstrations, affiliated with New York's Occupy Wall Street and similar events going on across the United States, have been peaceful. In Raleigh, though, 20 members of Occupy Raleigh were arrested Saturday when they remained on the Capitol grounds after their rally permit had expired.

Durham demonstrators set up on the downtown CCB Plaza, a public park, on Sunday afternoon but disbanded Monday night after the city ordered removal of the tents in which some people had spent Sunday night.

Durham City Manager Tom Bonfield and City Attorney Patrick Baker said camping, with tents or other temporary structures, is not allowed on the plaza under city parks policy, but the demonstrators were welcome to remain at the plaza as long as they liked.

"The Plaza is open 24 hours a day; it's just not a campsite," Bonfield said. "You can stay, congregate, sit in chairs, sit on the ground, whatever your heart's content."

The protesters returned to CCB Plaza and continued their assembly but departed before morning and left the plaza in tidy shape, according to City Councilman Mike Woodard.

"Encampment temporarily on hold," said a Tuesday-morning posting on the group's Twitter site, "for internal logistics, process, etc. ... reconvene when you're ready."

A handful of Occupy Durham representatives maintained a presence at CCB Plaza Tuesday afternoon, but the only demonstration was an "Occupy Durham" banner at one side of the park.

Baker said he talked by telephone with Rochelle Sparko, an attorney involved in Occupy Durham, on Tuesday morning about the city's restrictions at CCB Plaza.

"The conversation went OK," he said. "She understood our position, and we'll go from there."

Baker said city code states that violations of parks and recreation department policies are illegal, and that parks policy on the department website identifies only Lake Michie as a city property where camping is allowed. Demonstrators could, however, apply for a special permit, he said, and if any chose to spend the night at CCB Plaza in sleeping bags, he did not think the city would have any power to stop them.

In Chapel Hill, police have no plans to intervene, Sgt. Josh Mecimore said Monday. The protesters have assured police they will not block access to the post office building. If the movement outgrows the space, they will start a second encampment in neighboring Carrboro, he said.

University of North Carolina freshman Andrew Sandino of Pinehurst slept on a mat Sunday night.

"So much of my life I've read about and theorized what's wrong with society, but I've never actually done anything to bring (change) about," he said as he sat on the pavement in front of his laptop. "At the very least, this will help spread information."

Staff writers Katelyn Ferral and Mark Schultz and photographer Harry Lynch contributed to this report.

Wise: 919-641-5895

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