Dozens of Occupy Atlanta demonstrators were arrested overnight when police cleared Woodruff Park.
Shortly before midnight about 100 police officers cleared the park and arrested 53 demonstrators, Atlanta Mayor Mr. Kasim Reed said in a prepared statement.
A judge on Wednesday ruled that all the people arrested in the protest could be released on signature bonds, according to the Atlanta Journal-constitution.
At 11:50 p.m., city officials entered Woodruff Park and announced to protesters that anyone remaining in the park after midnight would face arrest.
Two subsequent warnings were issued and at approximately 12:45 a.m., Atlanta police officers entered the park and arrested 53 Occupy Atlanta protesters without incident, Mayor Reed said.
On Wednesday the park was closed and Atlanta Police spokesman Mr. Carlos Campos issued a statement that anyone entering the park would be arrested.
The mayor cited concern for the public’s safety and escalating tension for revoking the executive order he issued on Oct. 17 to allow protestors to legally occupy the park.
“Throughout the day on Tuesday, one protester openly walked through the park with an AK47 assault rifle,” Mayor Reed said.
“For more than two weeks, the City of Atlanta, downtown residents and business owners have shown tolerance and patience for the members of Occupy Atlanta. The protesters, however, moved from conducting an initially peaceful demonstration to increasingly aggressive actions.”
Mayor Reed on Monday had met with more than two dozen faith-based leaders for more than an hour in his office and asked for their assistance in trying to negotiate with members of Occupy Atlanta.
On Tuesday, Occupy Atlanta leaders rebuffed the attempts of several leading clergy members to engage in a civil and productive dialogue about the protest, Mayor Reed said.
“Instead, group members shouted down the clergy members and refused to formally meet until Thursday,” Mayor Reed said.
In a statement released overnight, Occupy Atlanta alleged that the city’s effort to negotiate with them was disingenuous.
“The evidence shows that despite the fact that Mayor Reed claimed that he was sending clergy to speak with Occupy Atlanta in order to find a ‘peaceful solution,’ the outcome was already predetermined,” the statement said.
“Representatives from the group of clergy arrived at the park and requested a meeting for 5 p.m. That time was not available because of a planned march which was posted in the schedule on Occupy Atlanta’s website. Participants in Occupy Atlanta and the representatives of the group of clergy agreed on a meeting time of Thursday at noon at Big Bethel AME Church. However, Atlanta police did not wait for this meeting to take place.”
Still, Mayor Reed said there were increasingly dangerous situations in Woodruff Park, which contributed to his decision.
“Occupy Atlanta protestors attempted to hold an unsanctioned concert over the weekend without providing the required security or crowd control plan,” Mayor Reed said. “Last week, demonstrators inserted wire hangers into electrical sockets to create additional power sources. A number of other fire code violations occurred, including repeated storage of propane heaters and twenty-gallon propane tanks inside tents. With more than 75 tents located in a confined area, these actions demonstrated a persistent and dangerous disregard for public safety.”
Mr. Tim Franzen, a spokesman for Occupy Atlanta, said before his arrest, “The occupation will continue in some shape or form,” according to the AJC.
The group aims to return to Woodruff Park but other options have been explored, he said.
Occupy Atlanta is part of a national movement that began with the Occupy Wall Street resistance movement in New York City.
Their hope, according to their website: By joining the nationwide Occupy movement, we will focus the attention of elected officials and the voting public on the majority’s desire to take our government and country back from the big money interests which currently hold undue sway over decisions affecting us all. We are coming together in large numbers to effect this change.
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