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Occupy Movements in San Diego, Oklahoma City, Boise Dig in

December 8, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT
The Occupy Movement stayed in the headlines this week as police broke up the San Francisco camp, but groups are digging in and holding up in many other places around the country. KPBS San Diego, OETA Oklahoma and Idaho Public Television report.

JEFFREY BROWN: The Occupy movement continued to be in the headlines this week, as police broke up the San Francisco camp, and protesters in a Boston park faced imminent eviction. But other groups are digging in and holding up in places we have heard about less.

We asked our colleagues at three PBS stations to highlight their respective movements.

We begin with Katie Orr from KPBS San Diego.

KATIE ORR, KPBS: On a recent chilly morning, about a dozen protesters huddled in a patch of sun near City Hall. The San Diego Occupy site was quiet, though protesters were reeling from an early-morning police raid that resulted in several arrests.

Protesters have been occupying San Diego’s Civic Center Plaza since early October. It may not be the biggest movement in the country, but it has shown persistence. And protesters say they’re not leaving.

Protester Michael Basillas has been occupying since the beginning. He says the movement’s strength comes from protesters’ dedication.

MICHAEL BASILLAS, Occupy San Diego: Physically, the strength comes in numbers. But in the smaller group, we have a very strong core as a group. And we might not have the numbers to back it, but we have a — very strong point people that really takes action.

KATIE ORR: That action includes setting up voter registration tables in the plaza, which drew the attention of police.

Last week, former San Diego congressional candidate Ray Lutz was arrested after using a table to register voters. Police say Lutz was arrested for trespassing. His table was set up outside a private office building on the plaza, and not on public property. That distinction led to a confrontation with police the following day, when protesters tried to set up a table again.

Attorney Rachel Scoma with the group Canvass for a Cause says the law allows them to do it.

RACHEL SCOMA, Canvass for a Cause: This is something we do every single day under Robins vs. Pruneyard. That’s why were able to stand in front of Targets and in shopping centers registering voters. And so we have a very specific interest in making sure that free speech is upheld here in this privately owned section of the civic center.

KATIE ORR: But the police disagreed. Assistant Chief Boyd Long told Scoma registering voters was fine, but setting up the table wasn’t allowed and could lead to someone being arrested.

MAN: You do not have the right to have the tables here. You do have the right to be here and do voter registration, and we’re going to support that. Thank you.

MAN: Then treat us equally, sir.

RACHEL SCOMA: Mike check.

MAN: Mike check.

PROTESTERS: Mike check.

RACHEL SCOMA: Mike check.

PROTESTERS: Mike check.

RACHEL SCOMA: Officer Long…

PROTESTERS: Officer Long…

RACHEL SCOMA: … has informed us…

PROTESTERS: … has informed us…

RACHEL SCOMA: … that we will be arrested,

PROTESTERS: … that we will be arrested…

RACHEL SCOMA: … if we set up a table…

PROTESTERS: … if we set up a table…

RACHEL SCOMA: … as is our right…

PROTESTERS: … as is our right…

RACHEL SCOMA: … in this section…

PROTESTERS: … in this section…

KATIE ORR: … of the Civic Center.

PROTESTERS: … of the Civic Center.

KATIE ORR: The police ultimately backed down. But, so far, more than 120 people have been arrested on other charges during the course of the occupation.

San Diego’s elected officials have largely stayed out the debate over the protests, but they say police have acted appropriately.

Mayor Jerry Sanders agrees.

JERRY SANDERS, mayor of San Diego: The police department has worked with the Occupy movement. And I think that we are trying to protect their right to protest. But, on the other hand, you can’t just take over a piece of property and occupy it with tents and other things that deny that use to other folks.

KATIE ORR: But the San Diego protesters show little sign of going away. They say they will take part in a national movement next week to block the city’s port.

STEVE BENNETT, OETA: This is Steve Bennett in Oklahoma City, where city leaders are now trying to evict Occupy OKC Protesters from a downtown park. The group has maintained a continuous presence in the park since October, but officials last week announced plans to enforce a curfew from 11:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m., citing what they say are safety concerns.

M.T. BERRY, Oklahoma City assistant city manager: So, as we started to get into the cold winter months, as we get into this period of time when the park — there will be a demolition of a building going on in the park. We decided at that point that we could no longer issue a permit for the Occupy group to be in the park and camp — conduct camp activities in the park overnight.

STEVE BENNETT: Occupy organizers insist they have a constitutional right to assemble, and maintain the camp is a form of expression protected by the First Amendment.

Attorney Beth Isbell, representing Occupy OKC, believes politics are behind the move to shut down the tent city.

BETH ISBELL, attorney, Occupy OKC: They don’t like our message. They don’t think that we look right. We don’t wear suits. We don’t — we aren’t businesspeople down there occupying the park. We are simply trying to get the correct message across, which is that government is not doing the right thing by its citizens.

STEVE BENNETT: A federal court judge has issued a temporary restraining order allowing protesters to remain in the park, pending a hearing on a preliminary injunction. City officials say, if they do remove protesters from the park, they will do so peacefully.

M.T. BERRY: We’re not going down with — with riot gear and batons and pepper spray. We’re simply going to ask them to leave the park. And then it will be up to them as to what it takes to get them out of the park.

STEVE BENNETT: Regardless of the court’s decision, Occupy OKC says it’s not going away. There are currently about a dozen Occupy groups in Oklahoma. Organizers with Occupy OKC are asking those organizations to come to Oklahoma City Friday to show solidarity with the national movement.

PROTESTERS: Hey, hey, ho, ho, Wells Fargo got to go!

MARCIA FRANKLIN, Idaho Public Television: This is Marcia Franklin in Boise, Idaho. Earlier this week, members of Occupy Boise carried out what they called citizen foreclosures on downtown banks.

PROTESTER: We want our homes back!

PROTESTERS: We want our homes back!

MARCIA FRANKLIN: The march was also a way to mark the one-month anniversary of their encampment.

It’s a protest that hasn’t seen the violence of other Occupy movements. That’s in large part because its tents are on state property, managed by the Idaho Department of Administration. Vagrancy laws don’t apply here, as they do for city property.

So the group can’t be evicted unless the agency finds health and safety violations. The choice of land was deliberate for the Occupiers, who didn’t want to provoke a confrontation with law enforcement at this stage of their movement.

DEAN GUNDERSON, Occupy Boise: It came down to a question of, where did we want to spend our limited legal resources? We’d rather spend it in the actual purpose for the Occupy.

MARCIA FRANKLIN: Just across the street, here at the statehouse, there are rules that govern how long a rally can be, no longer than four hours. The director of the Department of Administration, Teresa Luna, declined an on-camera interview, but in a phone conversation, told me she expects when lawmakers come back to town in January, they will look at extending the rules that apply here across the street to the other state property.

That would mean Occupiers would face eviction.

It doesn’t worry Daniel Grad.

DANIEL GRAD, Occupy Boise: I will take it elsewhere. There are a lot of us who recognize that this movement is more important than the place we’re staying.

MARCIA FRANKLIN: Grad, who’s camped out most of the month, says he’s cold, but happy.

DANIEL GRAD: It’s fantastic when you wake up in the morning and there are five people around you, and you just look at them and you say, oh, my God, we’re going to go out and do something today. And I love it.

MARCIA FRANKLIN: Cyndi Tiferet lost her job six months ago at a credit union. Like most Occupy Boise members, she’s not able to stay every night at the camp, but is determined to spend as many nights as she can.

CYNDI TIFERET, Occupy Boise: I’m definitely one that likes it warm, and I will tell you that my goal in life with camping was never to go sleep on the grounds of the old courthouse in downtown Boise. But I’m passionate about making a difference.

MARCIA FRANKLIN: The movement has plans to occupy foreclosed homes, which may provoke its first encounters with law enforcement.

But, for now, it’s quiet. In part, Gunderson attributes that to the libertarian leanings of the state.

DEAN GUNDERSON: I think there’s a strong respect for people who are willing to go through a particular hardship to make a point.

MARCIA FRANKLIN: And, he says, the group is more interested in starting a conversation with the community than alienating it.

DEAN GUNDERSON: I think that the purpose of the Occupation is not to disrupt the good people in the country, but the purpose of the Occupation is to ensure that good people can continue to live their good lives. I would love it if we’re here in the spring and we actually have to have a conversation about, where should we be planting the potatoes?

MARCIA FRANKLIN: It remains to be seen whether lawmakers share that enthusiasm and allow the group to stay.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Thanks again to our public broadcasting colleagues at KPBS in San Diego, OETA in Oklahoma and Idaho Public Television for those reports.