Occupy OC plans to move, continue movement

IRVINE — Occupy Orange County protesters have agreed to end overnight camping at the Irvine Civic Center in January, but the movement will continue in other forms, a lawyer working with the group said.

"What is not correct is that it is being characterized as us ending the occupation," said attorney Greg Diamond. "We expect that we are moving the occupation, and that may be as little as moving to the sidewalk or it could be to another city, to foreclosed houses or other properties. It can be a lot of things that may or may not happen ... "

Protesters will end overnight camping at Alton Parkway and Harvard Avenue, where between 20 and 30 tents have been for the last eight weeks, at noon Jan. 11, according to the latest amendment between the group and city officials posted on the city website.

So far, the encampment has been largely peaceful and only one arrest has occurred, which was due to public intoxication, said Irvine Police Lt. Julia Engen.

"We have enjoyed a very cooperative relationship to date with the protesters here at City Hall," Engen said in an email. "They continue to communicate with city personnel, and there is nothing at all to indicate any change in the future. We speak with them usually every morning or so, and they let us know if they have any activities planned."

The protesters were granted permission Oct. 25 to camp overnight at the Civic Center and have since received several extensions from the city.

However, protesters "acknowledge that no further extensions of time of the Letter of Understanding will be requested or granted," according to the most recent city document on the subject.

Protesters will continue to be able to use the park space and sidewalks to express constitutionally protected rights, but will be limited by city laws and regulations, according to the document.

"We have tried to treat this as a most peaceful demonstration, and the city has been fully engaged with the group by respecting the highest point of their cause, which is the right of free speech," said Irvine Mayor Sukhee Kang. "Both parties can certainly declare victory on how a group and the government can work together and come to a positive ending."

While it would be premature to make assumptions as to what the city will do in response if the protesters attempt to continue camping overnight, Kang said that the city will be considering its options.

"It is our sincere hope that both parties agree on and respect the agreements that we have been living under," Kang said.

Already Occupy Orange County, which has also has a protest site in Santa Ana, has plans for the next stage of the movement: "Occupy the Courts" is planned for Jan. 20 at the federal courthouse in Santa Ana.

Not everyone at the Irvine encampment is happy with the latest agreement, which won approval by a 34-7 vote at the group's general assembly meeting, according to the group's website, occupy-oc.org.

"Yes, there are a lot of people who are disappointed," said protester Charles Cha. "For the hardcore Occupiers, the ones that don't have anywhere to go but here, there is disappointment and a lot of confusion over are we being abandoned."

However, Cha said the occupation was not ending, just transforming.

"We've created a physical space for ideas," Cha said. "We've reclaimed the commons — that's what physical space is all about. This is the demos. Democracy was born in the public square."


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