Occupy New Orleans protesters urged to leave park
NEW ORLEANS - Protesters who have been camped out at a park across from City Hall in New Orleans say police have been handing out flyers informing them that they are no longer permitted to stay in the park overnight.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu said Friday that it's time for the protesters to end their round-the-clock occupation.
"Occupy New Orleans" protesters have been in the park since Oct. 6, when roughly 200 marchers paraded through New Orleans' business district. They said they are protesting proposed cuts in Medicare spending, the war in Afghanistan, perceived corporate greed and a variety of other social ills in a spin-off of New York's Occupy Wall Street demonstrations.
The park, Duncan Plaza, is where scores of homeless camped for weeks after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
As of midday Monday, dozens of tents still remained at the Occupy New Orleans encampment, and it was unclear whether any attempt to remove them was imminent.
Landrieu's press secretary, Ryan Berni, said in an email to The Associated Press on Monday that the city "will be enforcing the law in the near future. Arrest will be a last resort, but again, we have been giving continued courtesy notices of violations of various laws."
One of the protesters, Gabriel Barough, 22, said there's been an increased police presence in the park since Friday. Barough said officers are passing through the park at least twice a day, usually in the morning and at night, to hand out flyers informing occupiers that they are not allowed in the park overnight and tents and makeshift kitchens have to be removed.
"They're saying we can't sleep here, but they have done nothing to address the fact that there are homeless people here, people with no place to go," Barough said.
Another protester, Jon Hyers, 43, said police have been respectful and courteous, but occupiers have not been told exactly when the park's operating hours of 6 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. CST will be enforced.
"I think it'll be tonight or tomorrow night, but I don't know," Hyers said. "I just hope it comes after there's been a solution put in place for the homeless."
Police deferred all comment to the mayor's office, which released a statement Monday: "We will move forward in a fashion that respects the 1st Amendment rights of those within the park within the bounds of the law that also protects the common good.
"We have given those in Duncan Plaza courtesy notices of some of the laws they are violating and have asked them to come into compliance voluntarily immediately. We invite those in Duncan Plaza to express their U.S. Constitutional 1st Amendment rights during the park's operating hours of 6 a.m. and 10:30 p.m."