Cities Vary Widely In Response To Occupy Camps
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
In other parts of the country, the Occupy movement has not sparked the same violent street clashes as Oakland, although some places have become tense. NPR's Margot Adler has this roundup of how other cities have been dealing with the protests.
MARGOT ADLER, BYLINE: The response of local governments varies widely. In Atlanta, the mayor first sent clergy in to talk to the protestors, who had been in Woodruff Park for more than two weeks.
(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)
ADLER: Fifty-three people were arrested early Wednesday morning when police cleared the park. A state senator was among those arrested. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed told reporters he was not pressured by the business community, but seeing a man in the park with an AK-47...
MAYOR KASIM REED: Continued my feeling that this was deteriorating.
ADLER: Occupy Chicago in the downtown financial district was originally supported by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. But early Sunday morning, 130 people were arrested for violating an 11 p.m. curfew in Grant Park.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Majority of Americans support the Occupy Wall Street movement.
ADLER: On Monday, a nurses' union staged a protest over the arrest of two nurses. Mayor Rahm Emanuel attempted to be even-handed.
MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL: We're both a city and a country that respects people's First Amendment rights and a city and a country that also respects the law, and both were accomplished with a proper balance.
BILL GALSTON: Ultimately, this isn't a police department decision. This is a mayoral decision.
ADLER: Bill Galston is a senior fellow in governance at the Brookings Institution, and he says mayors are responding to local pressures: police overtime costs, more than three million in New York; businesses that want protestors out; plus noise and sanitation concerns - like in Chicago, most likely.
GALSTON: Organized constituencies, probably including the police department, behind the scenes talked with the mayor and said, you know, we really do need to enforce the rule of law here.
ADLER: Many cities are trying for a measured approach. In Providence, Rhode Island, Mayor Angel Taveras marched with the protestors. On the other hand, the city is trying to evict them, going through the courts. In New York, the local community board passed a resolution supporting Occupy Wall Street, although they want the hours of drumming limited to two. Mayor Michael Bloomberg says it's a balance.
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: You may not like it, but these people have generally obeyed the law. And you know, technically Brookfield has not asked them to leave. So they're not trespassing, so the police can't do anything about it.
ADLER: Brookfield Properties, the organization that owns Zuccotti Park, has a contract with the city. Unlike city parks, it's open around the clock. New York is more liberal than more places, but Galston says without various municipal pressures on them, most big city mayors would be supportive of some of the ideas in the movement.
GALSTON: These demonstrators are saying things that enjoy very wide support and agreement in the U.S. population.
ADLER: Occupy events are taking places in almost every major city and many dozens of smaller locations. Atlanta's Mayor Reed says city mayors have been sharing ideas about what to do, but what they end up doing is more likely to be defined by local pressures. Margot Adler, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.