RALEIGH — Occupy Raleigh demonstrators said this afternoon they would keep searching for a camping spot in downtown after city leaders denied their request to set up tents outside City Hall.
The group is now considering a privately owned parking lot at the corner of Lenoir and Blount streets, but the site poses several problems, said Joe Huberman, a co-organizer of Occupy Raleigh.
Cars park there during the day, and the lot sits next to a burned-out house that could be a hazard, Huberman said.
The 7-to-0 decision by the City Council came on the same day that police in New York clashed with protesters in a predawn raid to clear the park that was the birthplace of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Closer to home, police on Sunday used a tactical squad of officers armed with semi-automatic weapons to remove squatters from a private downtown building in Chapel Hill.
Raleigh City Councilman Russ Stephenson praised demonstrators for bringing attention to income inequality and the need for a strong middle class.
But he said allowing the group to camp on city grounds poses too many safety risks.
What weve seen over the last two weeks is an evolution of the protests, Stephenson said, referring to clashes elsewhere in the country.
Mayor-elect Nancy McFarlane said she would continue to help the group look for private property downtown. McFarlane credited Huberman for working cooperatively with Raleigh officials.
Hes been very patient and acted in good faith in negotiating with the city, McFarlane said.
Demonstrators in Raleigh have shown good behavior, said Kurt Zehnder, 20, one of the regular campers in front of the State Capitol.
With any mass protest anywhere, theres going to be a small sect of people that take things into their own hands, said Zehnder. Its individual people making those decisions. We dont advocate those things.
This afternoon's decision came a week after city staffers outlined a list of problems with allowing an encampment on City Hall grounds, from objections by neighbors to hazards associated with people sleeping near diesel storage tanks and electrical generators.
The camp would be a place for protesters to eat and sleep while they continue their protests at the State Capitol.
So far, the city has spent $61,000 paying police to monitor the demonstrators.
The group will discuss next steps at a nightly General Assembly meeting on the sidewalk outside the State Capitol.
Demonstrators are determined to maintain an around-the-clock presence, Zehnder said, even as the search for an encampment drags on.
Anybody that thinks were leaving, quite frankly, is crazy, he said.