A smaller contingent of the Occupy Lawrence remained in South Park early Saturday morning. Members of the group said they were planning a rally for noon at the corner of Ninth and Massachusetts streets. It is to be followed by pumpkin carving and an acoustic guitar jam in South Park.
Member Jason Phoenix said he hoped the events would give the group the opportunity to hear from more in the community.
Here's the earlier story:
The Occupy Lawrence camp remains in South Park, technically outside the law but working toward a satisfactory resolution for both the city and the protesters.
Toni Wheeler, the city’s director of the Legal Department, said two representatives from Occupy Lawrence came to her office in City Hall at 8:30 a.m. Thursday to notify her that a “contingent” of Occupy Lawrence members would continue to camp in the park despite a warning from the city that they would be violating a law that prohibits use of the park during overnight hours.
“They weren’t specific about how large the contingent would be,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler said she was in discussions with various city officials to determine what the city’s enforcement strategy will be. Wheeler said she did not anticipate the city taking any enforcement action prior to 11:30 p.m. Thursday, which is closing time for the park.
By city ordinance, Lawrence parks close from 11:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. But late Thursday night, no city personnel arrived to enforce the ordinance, leaving the protesters alone for another night.
Wheeler previously has said the city would have the legal right to remove the campers from the park, but she has stopped short of saying whether that will be the approach the city takes to enforce the law.
Even some observers who are not involved in the protest — an offshoot of a movement that started on Wall Street to protest corporate greed, among other issues — are in solidarity with the local activists.
“Everybody has a right to their opinion, period,” Ben Davis, of Eudora, said early this morning. Davis, who called himself a conservative Catholic, said he disagrees with the politics behind the movement but thinks the protesters should be allowed to stay. On Thursday afternoon, Sgt. Matt Sarna, a Lawrence police spokesman, said the city and police department were “working together to find options and facilitate the protesters’ expression of freedom of speech.”
“The Lawrence Police Department is committed to enforcing the laws and ordinances within the city limits of Lawrence including parks that have set usage hours. This enforcement could include citations, arrests or other types of enforcement actions deemed necessary,” Sarna said. “The City of Lawrence Police Department has no formal timeline on enforcement action at this time and is hoping for a peaceful resolution to the situation.”
At 7 p.m., members of Occupy Lawrence agreed by consensus that those who wished could stay in the park past 11:30 p.m. The group also voted to remove a majority of their camping equipment to a location off site.
Occupy Lawrence member Jason Phoenix proposed a resolution that would see the group leave South Park and occupy other parks for one or two days at a time before moving on.
“It’s not about South Park, it’s about continuing to spark conversation,” Phoenix said.
— reporters Aaron Couch and George Diepenbrock contributed additional information to this story.