Three Occupy Omaha protesters arrested
November 3rd, 2011
Three Occupy Omaha protesters were arrested early Thursday morning, after Omaha police officers cleared out their protest site – an empty parking lot on 24th St. and Farnam.
In a statement, Omaha Police Department spokesperson Lt. Darci Tierney said officers arrived at 4:00am, and announced, repeating the message three times over a loudspeaker, that protesters are trespassing on city property and will be arrested if they did not vacate. Police had warned the protesters previously they would be evicted if they didn’t leave.
Tierney said nine people were there at the time. Initially, seven people agreed to leave, and two people refused. Those two, Kathryn Heil, 28, and Nathaniel Davis, 31, both of Omaha, were arrested and booked at Douglas County Corrections. A third person, Benjamin Walden, 23, also of Omaha, was arrested later, after protesters called in others to help remove some of the property on the lot. Walden sat in the middle of the lot, and refused to leave. He was also booked at DCC. Tierney says seven tents, and a number of mattresses and chairs were also removed from the site.
Protesters have been camping out at the location for several weeks, as part of an occupation protesting what they view as government corruption and policies geared toward the wealthiest Americans. The peaceful eviction and arrests come after violent clashes between police and Occupy protesters in Oakland, California.
November 2, 2011
Omaha, NE – The Occupy Omaha protesters have been told to vacate their current occupation downtown, but the city and the demonstrators have yet to agree on an alternative location.
“I want to be very clear,” Aida Amoura, a spokesperson for Mayor Jim Suttle, announced to reporters Tuesday. “The city of Omaha is not picking locations or coordinating protester events. Our job is only to safely manage events of this nature, and we are doing what we can to work with Occupy Omaha members to allow them to exercise their First Amendment rights.”
“We are not stopping anybody from free speech in this city,” Amoura said.
The city called the press conference to respond to the problem of where to locate the Occupy Omaha protesters. The group has set up with tents and camp fires in an open lot on 24th Street and Farnam downtown. The protest, which is in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street in New York and similar demonstrations around the country, originally set up its “occupation” at Gene Leahy Mall. The group then moved to 18th and Farnam before setting up at the current spot on 24th.
“The area at 24th and Farnam is being used as a camp site,” said Todd Schmaderer, the Deputy Chief of the Omaha Police Department. Schmaderer said the department is receiving complaints almost daily from local businesses in the area about open burning and public urination.
“It is city property, and one would need a permit or permission from the city to occupy that lot,” Schmaderer said, “neither of which has been asked for or granted. Our goal is to work with the occupiers at 24th and Farnam to find a reasonable and diplomatic solution.”
But protesters say they’ve made several attempts to obtain a permit from the city, and have been largely ignored. And that’s where some of the confusion comes in. Amoura said the city was approached by someone, who she declined to identify, requesting a permit for the group for Elmwood Park. But protesters say they never wanted to move to Elmwood Park because it’s not visible to city traffic.
“It’s not going to be suitable. We’ve already discussed that and agreed upon as a group that would not be a suitable location for us to relocate,” Jim Morrison, one of the organizers of the officially leaderless group, told KVNO News.
“We had suggested Memorial Park or Gene Leahy,” Morrison said. “And we’re willing to negotiate with the Mayor’s office and with the Mayor to find a suitable location. But that just wouldn’t be acceptable.”
“Here’s part of the problem: there’s a lot of different people who are allegedly leaders of this group,” Amoura said. “So even though one person may say one thing, the only ones that have come here and approached us, and asked us, was for Elmwood Park.”
Amoura said the Elmwood Park permit has been granted to the anonymous requester – conditionally. The group would have to comply with regular park hours, pay a daily permit fee, and pay for liability insurance and porta-potties. Amoura also said they could request a waiver of some of those requirements from the city council. Morrison said the group expects to be on the council agenda next week, and will ask for permission for an alternative site, and a waiver of any permit fees.
For now, Schmaderer said the Omaha Police Department will hold off on demanding the protesters leave or face arrest – some protesters have said they will peacefully submit to arrests if necessary. Schmaderer said he hopes a solution can be found first.
“The conversations we’ve had with the group have been very cordial. They have tended to lend me to believe some compromise could be reached.”
“Yes, absolutely,” Morrison agreed. “We want it to be resolved in the most civil manner possible.”