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Occupy lawyers sue to bar arrests

Nov. 8, 2011 at 7:15 AM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, Nov. 8 (UPI) -- Lawyers representing Occupy protesters in Tucson said they filed a civil rights suit in federal court, seeking a temporary ban on arrests of demonstrators.

Meanwhile police and local officials across the United States and Canada grappled with potential violence as they sought to evict Occupy protesters in their cities.

While Occupy protesters in Tucson solicited materials online Monday to help winterize their camp at Viente De Agosto Park, volunteer attorneys calling themselves Occupy Tucson Legal Working Group said a civil rights suit was filed in federal court to ask for a "temporary restraining order to stop arrests at Veinte De Agosto Park," CNN reported.

The group said it represent 96 local Occupy protesters, who have more than 400 misdemeanor charges filed against them.

The Occupy Wall Street movement, which started in New York as a call to action against unequal distribution of wealth and other social issues in September, has spread across major cities worldwide.

In Atlanta, about two dozen protesters moved to a suburb Monday, temporarily staying in a home with a family of five facing foreclosure, CNN reported. The Occupy Atlanta members will stay in Snellville for 48 hours, a group spokesman said, canvassing the neighborhood where the family lives to garner support to help occupy other homes facing foreclosure.

Senior citizens and the disabled joined Occupy Chicago demonstrators Monday to protest cuts in social programs, linking arms at a downtown intersection to show their opposition to threats to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, CNN said.

Chicago police said they issued citations to 43 people, who will be required to pay a fine.

Police in Fresno, Calif., arrested at least 22 people during the weekend demonstrators and the city's sheriff said. One protester was taken into custody Monday.

Demonstrators agreed to "voluntary arrest" as a form of protest and didn't resist, Sheriff Margaret Mims said.

"They staged a good, old-fashioned sit-in," she said.

Mayors and police officials elsewhere, however, said they were concerned about the growing level of violence.

In the nation's capital, Washington Mayor Vincent Gray and Police Chief Cathy Lanier said Occupy D.C. activists have grown violent, prompting police to adjust their tactics.

"We will not tolerate behavior that jeopardizes public safety," Gray told Occupy D.C. protesters demonstrating in downtown Washington's McPherson Square, adjacent to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Export-Import Bank, Washington's financial district and numerous hotels.

Protesters have become "increasingly confrontational and violent toward uninvolved bystanders and motorists," Lanier said in a statement. "That is no longer a peaceful protest."

Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson led a prayer with about 30 protesters Monday evening after the group marched on police headquarters and City Hall.

He later told the Washington Examiner he considered the Occupy movement comparable to civil rights-era sit-ins.

"All of it is occupying for economic justice," Jackson said. "Dr. [Martin Luther] King's last act on Earth was to come to Washington and to occupy the mall and put the focus on economic justice. He said it's all right for the wealthy to get wealthy but not at the expense of poor people."

In St. Louis, city officials insisted Occupy protesters must leave their encampment but took no action Monday amid fears of violence.

Group members occupying downtown St. Louis' Kiener Plaza, near the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, vowed to hold their ground.

City leaders moved carefully around the issue, hoping to avoid violence sparked by police action in other cities, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

"All I'm trying to do is to keep this from becoming Oakland," said Jeff Rainford, Mayor Francis Slay's chief of staff, referring to police clashes with protesters in California. "I'm trying to get this solved with no violence."

Rainford, told the Post-Dispatch Monday he would let the situation "cool off" before making any moves.

Vancouver officials said they would file for a court order to permit police to remove Occupy Vancouver encampment tents.

The city posted notices around the activists' encampment Monday appealing to protesters to take down their tent city outside the Vancouver Art Gallery, a regular gathering spot for protests and demonstrations.

"Over the last four days, there has been as escalation of safety concerns in the area of fire safety, injection drug use, the presence of pests and other hazards," the notice reads. "We ask you to take your tents, belongings and any other items or structures off the site immediately so that safety concerns can be addressed."

Mayor Gregor Robertson said the demonstrations may continue but not the tent city.

The notice came two days after a 23-year-old woman from Victoria, British Columbia, was found dead and four days after a man suffered a non-fatal overdose at the encampment.

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