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LA offers new camp site; NYC media upset

Nov. 22, 2011 at 7:14 AM   |   Comments

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LOS ANGELES, Nov. 22 (UPI) -- Occupy movement protesters in Los Angeles were offered a new base camp, while police in Houston investigated a shooting near the Occupy Houston encampment.

In New York, meanwhile, news organizations filed complaints against the police department regarding treatment of journalists covering the Occupy Wall Street protests.

Occupy LA said city officials offered them office space and farmland in exchange for ending their encampment at City Hall.

Members of the movement said the news was greeted with excitement, anger and disbelief because many didn't know of the negotiations, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.

"I don't appreciate people appointing themselves to represent me, to represent us," one woman called out during the assembly. "Who was in those meetings?"

Details of the proposal were unveiled Monday during the demonstration's nightly general assembly meeting by Jim Lafferty, a National Lawyers Guild lawyer who has been an advocate for the protest since it began seven weeks ago.

Lafferty said city officials offered protesters a $1-a-year lease on a 10,000-square-foot office space near City Hall and that the officials also promised land elsewhere for protesters who want to farm, as well as housing for homeless people who joined the camp.

A spokesman for the mayor's office wouldn't comment to the Times on the proposal, saying only, "We are in negotiations with organizers of Occupy LA."

In Houston, gunfire was exchanged between two police officers and a man wielding a rifle in the city's Tranquility Park near the Occupy Houston camp Monday afternoon, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Police spokesman John Cannon said the man was struck at least twice and was taken to a hospital for surgery, but it was believed his wounds were not life-threatening. No bystanders or officers were injured.

Police were investigating whether the man has a history of mental health issues, the newspaper said.

Cannon said all Occupy Houston participants interviewed said the man was not part of the movement and they had never seen him before Monday.

Several witnesses said the man was wearing a black suit and white shirt when he entered Tranquility Park, shooting a rifle in the air during afternoon rush hour. Witnesses said the gunman didn't appear to be targeting the Occupy camp because he walked past it on his way to a pedestrian bridge.

In New York, 13 news organizations filed complaints Monday about the New York Police Department's treatment of journalists covering the Occupy Wall Street movement, the original protests against the inequities of wealth distribution that has gone global, The New York Times reported.

Separately, 10 press clubs, unions and other groups representing journalists called for an investigation and said they had formed a coalition to monitor police behavior.

The complaints were prompted by a number of incidents Nov. 15 when police officers blocked and arrested reporters during and after evictions of Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zuccotti Park.

During a news conference after the park was cleared, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the media were kept away "to prevent a situation from getting worse and to protect members of the press."

In a joint letter to the Police Department, the news organizations said officers violated their own procedures by threatening, arresting and injuring reporters and photographers, and requested a meeting with Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and his chief spokesman, Paul Browne. The letter also said there were "numerous inappropriate, if not unconstitutional, actions and abuses" by the police against "credentialed and non-credentialed journalists in the last few days."

Similarly, the New York Press Club and other groups that represent journalists called for an investigation into police action, saying, "What the police did on Nov. 15 to suppress coverage of their activities was intolerable." The groups also said a new group, the Coalition for the First Amendment, would "monitor relations" between police and the press.

In Minnesota, Occupy Duluth protesters and their tents remained in place at the downtown Civic Center Plaza early Tuesday, despite police telling them they must leave unless they get a permit, the Duluth News Tribune reported.

About 12 to 15 people were at the site, some near a small fire in the sub-freezing temperatures and most in connected tents, the newspaper said.

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