Occupy Omaha protesters wait, in vain, for police
November 2nd, 2011
Omaha, NE – Close to one hundred people waited outside in downtown Omaha on a cold Tuesday night for police who never showed.
The Occupy Omaha protesters have been standing against what supporters view as greed and corruption since their first march downtown on October 15th. Since then, they’ve set up tents and makeshift beds to “occupy” the city at three locations downtown. Yesterday, they got word Omaha police had, again, asked them to clear out – by 10pm.
“Occupy Omaha’s been displaced twice and upon hearing this, we’re not going to take it anymore,” said Justin Tolston, who drove to Omaha from Lincoln, where he has been standing with the Occupy Lincoln protest. “We’re going to stand up and fight back.”
Both protests are in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street in New York, which has sprouted several similar demonstrations, and arrests, around the country.
“Once they realize that crushing this democratic process… will only increase the fever of the public to want to partake, and it will only grow and strengthen,” Tolston said. “So I encourage them to come down here and threaten to take away our constitutional right to freedom of speech… I dare them to, please, we’ll be here. We won’t go away.”
Tolston was one of about a half dozen of the protesters, who planned to stay put when police arrived and peacefully submit to arrest. The rest of the group planned to keep moving and marching, and disperse if asked. But, at about 11pm, after an hour of standing on the sidewalk, holding signs as cars drove by, occasionally honking horns in support, no police showed, although several cruisers drove by.
Lt. Darci Tierney, a spokesperson for the Omaha Police Department confirmed police told the protesters to vacate, saying they were occupying city property (the protesters are currently located in an empty lot at 24th St. and Farnam), and did not have a permit. Jim Morrison is one of the organizers of the officially leaderless movement. He said the group has made several attempts to attain a permit, and been unsuccessful.
“There have been several attempts to get a hold of Parks and Recreation to figure out what we can do as far as a permit, but none of that has been answered with any sort of information that we could possibly use to obtain that permit.”
Morrison said OPD has said they could likely obtain a permit to protest in Elmwood Park, but that would be unsuitable, he said, because the park is hardly visible to passing traffic.
The protesters will take their cause to the Omaha City Council at its next meeting on November 8th, Morrison said. For now, they will continue to “occupy” their ground downtown, while they can.
“We think this is probably a chess move,” Morrison said. “They’ve noticed that there’s a lot of people here, and they’re probably going to wait until there’s less people so it’s easier to disperse the crowd.”
“So our move from here is to try to keep as many people here, so we can stand our ground.”