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Bethlehem Occupy Protesters Evicted

Police and city employees remove protester encampment from garden outside library after midnight.

 

The protesters of Occupy Bethlehem were evicted this morning from their encampment in the garden just west of the .

City police and employees of the Department of Parks and Recreation descended on the camp shortly after midnight to begin the cleanup as a steady, soaking rain fell.

Police encountered three protesters on site who picked up their personal belongings and left, according to a news release issued by Police Commissioner Jason Schiffer, who personally oversaw the operation.

Other personal belongings, including tents and their contents, were moved to an indoor storage facility and the city will make arrangements to return that property to their owners, Schiffer said.

In an attached YouTube video filmed by a protester, Schiffer was asked why the raid was conducted at the hour it was.

“We didn’t want to arrest anyone,” Schiffer said. “We just wanted to clean up the area.”

Occupy protesters were told more than a month ago that they needed to obtain a permit to continue to run the encampment, according to Schiffer. A week ago, the protesters were "provided written notification that they were ,” Schiffer said.

The permits are necessary when any semi-permanent structures, such as tents, are set up on public property. As part of the permitting process, the group was also required to provide $1 million of liability insurance, which according to Deputy City Solicitor Chris Cooper, is standard for a festival or other outdoor activity.

At the same time, Schiffer said, the city has no intention of restricting Occupy protesters free speech. They don’t need a permit to protest, but they do need one for an encampment, he said.

“Now, we just have to take to the streets,” one protester said on the video. “If we’re not allowed to camp out, then I’m willing to make bigger and better signs and just be out 24/7 walking around. We were talking about outreach anyway.”

The relationship among the city, the police and the Occupy protesters has seemed amicable since the protesters in late October.

When the city began to decorate the plaza for the holidays a month ago, the protesters agreed to move to the west side of the Bethlehem Area Public Library. At the same time, Schiffer, until the last week, has not pressed the protesters to obtain permits.

Of late, the commissioner said Tuesday night, he has received more complaints from people about the protesters. Allegations of drug use, littering and foul language have been made. Library employees have also complained that some patrons are intimidated by the protesters’ presence.

 “Although the city has been very patient with the members of this organization, they have knowingly and deliberately decided to continue ignoring any and all requests from the city for them to adhere to our ordinances,” Schiffer wrote in the news release. “These requests have been clearly communicated verbally and in writing.”

Victoria Bastidas December 08, 2011 at 11:20 AM
To the Protestors who speak for those of us too busy or apathetic to stand up for ourselves: We Support YOU! Thank you for what you are doing! Can I bring you anything? Hot dinner?
Mary Anne Looby December 08, 2011 at 11:56 AM
Comendable approach. Non violent, repectful of abandoned property. Kudos to the Officers and Parks Dept workers for taking this on in the middle of the night in the pouring rain. Where were all the protesters?
Patriot2 December 08, 2011 at 12:24 PM
I commend the City for the action taken. They have been very patient with this outlying group of people that claim to represent the 99%. The fact of the matter is that I am part of the 99% and they sure don't represent me. They actually are a fringe group representing about 1%. So they are equal to the millionaire 1% in numbers and now need to move on. Their signs need to be removed as well. They can walk around City Hall and carry whatever signs they want but not place them in the ground in the historic district.
Bubz December 08, 2011 at 12:54 PM
Good Riddance to a bunch of freeloading, wannabees that are too lazy to get and work for their living.. send them to Afghanistan and let the protest there!
Keith December 08, 2011 at 02:44 PM
Ahh they're gone now? Bummer. I thought they'd call guiness soon for the one guy who had'nt showered since the whole occupy movement started. Guess they'll have to move on to something more profitable than being bums. Can't imagine what that could be.
Robert Trotner December 08, 2011 at 02:48 PM
I checked the camp yesterday morning. It was IMMACULATE. No papers or trash of ANY sort strewn about, no indication that anything was going on with the sole exceptions of about six very respectable-looking tents, all completely zipped up, and a little table with literature, sheltered from the rain and with rocks on all the papers so nothing could blow away and become debris or get wet. Oh - and THREE receptacles for garbage, lone for regular garbage and two for recyclables, ALL of which were completely clean. I personally have come in contact with this ordinance, which basically precludes demonstarations or rallies of any sort except by the rich. I met a clean, polite, quiet fellow there whose name i think was Andy, who said the ACLU is fighting this. I think the $1 million liability insurance requirement is totally unconstitutional because it limits rallies to the rich and powerful.
Danielle Notaro December 08, 2011 at 05:32 PM
come to Godfrey Daniels tonight where I have organized a Party/ Fundraiser -Godfrey Daniels, 7 E. 4th Street, Bethlehem, PA- $10 donation if you can or physical donation 7:00pm until 10:00pm
Steve December 08, 2011 at 06:51 PM
$1 million insurance liabiity is only for the rich ? LOL.....I have that much on my home owners insurance and it cost me under $300. Don't even have $300 to your name ? For shame ! As for the rally being only for the rich and powerful ....I hardly thing so. I have never see a rally by the rich..... they are too busy working earning a living to pay taxes for the lazy. If your looking for a place to camp go to Beaver Valley and you can stay there for $600 a month. I guess it beats getting a meaningful education and working for a living. Maybe mom and dad can spring for the $600 for your birthday Bobbie ! Such little ambition with such big dreams.
Danielle Notaro December 08, 2011 at 06:56 PM
Steve, they were quoted $2000 for insurance. and before you start degrading people and making assumptions about who these people are why don't you do some research.

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