The news came as something of a surprise to Occupy Little Rock, which has been meeting in recent days with Mayor Mark Stodola, City Manager Bruce Moore and City Attorney Tom Carpenter about moves to other sites or other ways to potentially end the demonstration, now more than six months old.
Greg Deckelman, who talks to media on behalf of Occupy Little Rock, said the chief delivered the notice about 6 p.m. and said "he hated to be the bearer of bad tidings." He delivered no other message, Deckelman said. Occupy LR has no idea if this signals an end to further negotiations.
"We're hopeful they'll continue to negotiate," Deckelman said. He wasn't ready to say what the group would do if that's not the case. "It would be decided at that point through consensus of the general assembly." He said there was plenty of time to negotiate a different place for the group to camp, though visibility remains a prime aim of the group. The group has been talking to the city about the possibility of both public and private spots to relocate.
Deckelman said city officials had said they might be willing to ask the City Board to consider the group's call for a non-binding city resolution opposition to the Citizens United ruling on "corporate personhood," but not a guarantee of passage of such a resolution.
I haven't been able to reach anyone with the city tonight.
The general assembly of Occupy Little Rock, which began Oct. 15 (it has been at the current site since Oct. 24) in sympathy to the Occupy Wall Street Movement, met late into the evening on a reaction to the city's decision. About 35 peoople were on hand. They'd met with lawyers earlier in the day earlier to gather legal advice in expectation of the end of city forbearance.
The group issued this statement shortly before midnight:
OLR continues to peacefully protest and exercise our Constitutional rights of freedom of assembly, freedom of speech and to redress grievances to our government on a local level — i.e. the Lake Maumelle watershed issue.On a State level with Regnat Populus and on a federal level with the Patriot Act, the U.S. Supreme Court decision on Citizens United, and The NDAA bill that says the government can detain U.S. citizens without attorney or trial indefinitely. They are but a few of the goals of OLR.
OLR has been virtually trouble-free and has endured far beyond demonstrations in most other cities. The city of Little Rock has been tolerant, though the expression of free speech has rankled some establishment figures. Most notable was West Little Rock City Director Lance Hines, who began the agitation to oust the group, which has perhaps numbered a few dozen overnight campers. Hines serves development interests in WLR, but apparently felt the OLR camp, which you can barely glimpse at freeway speeds from nearby Interstate 30, cast a bad light on the city. He called it an "eyesore."
OLR, among others, has mounted a number of peaceful demonstrations against the influence of corporate power on decision-making; has a radio show, and has gotten involved in providing protective regulation for the Lake Maumelle watershed (something that Lance Hines' most important patron, Deltic Timber, has been working to obstruct).
Police patrols have been reduced because they weren't needed. The city provided a dumpster for trash and provided a portable toilet the first month, but OLR has paid that cost since then. In six months the cumulative cost hasn't come close to the city's cost for a single Razorback game and the site — a parking lot — is a good deal cleaner than War Memorial Park after a football game and requires no turf repair.
Occupy Little Rock offered the city a solution a month ago. It offered to move to private land if the City Board would adopt a resolution, as other governments in the U.S. have, in opposition to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling establishing corporate personhood. As I wrote at the time, Little Rock policymaking embodied corporate personhood — taxpayers support the regional chamber of commerce, after all — long before it was cool or protected by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Occupy LR seems unlikely to merely walk away. It could, for example, try one last time to get an expression from the city of Little Rock that indicates sympathy for some of the group's laudable aims. This is asking a lot of some of our authoritarian leadership. You get the idea City Director Joan Adcock would like to take a hickory stick to them. But several in the Occupy LR have indicated to me that they understand the need for an "end game," some sort of resolution that gives them something to take away from the effort but also gives something back to the city.