by Bob Geary
[Update3, Friday, 1:30 p.m. In response to the question I raised in the piece below, i.e., whether the Capitol Police acted at Gov. Perdue's instigation and, if so, why? ...
Here's the response I received from Mark Johnson, Gov. Perdue's spokesman:
It goes without saying that Gov. Perdue supports citizens' rights to express their First Amendment freedoms. Gov. Perdue also believes that all North Carolinians must have the right to enjoy the historic State Capitol. In order to ensure that all citizens can enjoy the Capitol grounds — including the schoolchildren who visit regularly — the sidewalks in front of the Capitol must remain open. The Department of Administration (DOA) is the agency responsible for maintaining and caring for public property, including the historic State Capitol. The Governor trusts Sec. Carey and his team to handle those responsibilities appropriately.
DOA did advise the Governor's office yesterday that it intended to ensure that the state's policy of keeping the sidewalks in front of the State Capitol free and open was carried out. DOA made clear, however, that those citizens gathered on the sidewalk would not be required to leave.
[Update2: 10:45 p.m. A long night. There was no General Assembly. About 30-40 people were at the Capitol, but maybe 50 more went to the Wake jail to show solidarity with the arrested 8. Processing and releasing the 8 took awhile. Four of them, I understand, were charged with simple trespass and released without bail — including Margaret and Kat. Four, apparently the ones who sat in front of them, were charged with resisting arrest as well as trespass, and they were required to post $500 bail, which took awhile to raise. Resisting? I was there. Give that one a #bogus. Anyway, a small group at the Capitol was planning to stay on the sidewalk overnight, despite lack of bedding, chairs, supplies. As I was leaving, someone drove up with doughnuts. Good call.]
Update: 5:15 p.m. I'm back from the Capitol. After the order went out from State Capitol Police Chief Scott Hunter for OccupyRaleigh folks to get their stuff off the sidewalk, most of them did — but Margaret Schucker didn't. By stuff, the police meant all the supplies (food, water, medical) and all the chairs, sleeping bags and blankets the group has assembled (a lot of it donated) over the 12-day period. Also, the signs they'd stuck on the barricades supplied by the Raleigh Police Department.
So here was the problem. Schucker has a very bad back and a disability tag to prove it. She needs her chair. She wasn't blocking the sidewalk, Hunter's stated purpose for having chairs etcetera removed. (And in fact Hunter insisted he didn't want to arrest anybody, and everyone was free to remain on the sidewalk, but for some reason their $10 chairs had to go.)
So Schucker stayed put. The Raleigh police arrived with a trailer and took the barricades away, leaving all the signs in a heap. By then, the Occupy force had swelled to about 60 and they were chanting things like, "This is what democracy looks like, this is what a police state looks like," but as Hunter said, compliance with his order was excellent — except for Schucker.
And then a woman named Katina Gad sat in a chair next to Schucker, and they waited. And the Occupy group gathered around them, and by then about two dozen cops — half Capitol police, half RPD — were on the scene, waiting.
Finally, as Hunter's cops moved in, a half-dozen folks in the the Occupy group sat down in front of Schucker and Gad, and let themselves be arrested. Then Gad was arrested; and Schucker, helped out of her chair by a pair of Capitol police officers, was arrested. The charge was trespass on state property.
Hunter earlier told reporters he was acting on orders from "the property owner," which he identified as the N.C. Department of Administration. A DOA official, Tony Jordan, was on the scene. But Jordan reports to DOA Secretary Moses Carey, and Carey reports to Gov. Bev Perdue. And early on, Perdue made it clear — repeatedly — that she hates surprises and doesn't like to hear afterwards about controversial decisions her administration has made.
Thus, it would seem that Perdue gave the order — or approved it, anyway — for the Capitol police to move on the OccupyRaleigh group. We'll see.
What this means for the OccupyRaleigh effort is uncertain. In truth, the group was having trouble sustaining overnight occupations, though the evening General Assemblies were drawing a steady 40-60 people. Now, without supplies or anything to sleep in, it seems like overnight stays are impossible. But General Assemblies aren't, and per Hunter's statements, nothing stands in the way of folks coming periodically to "occupy," if not the Capitol grounds, at least the sidewalk.
But no people with disabilities?
As I was leaving, Stacie Borrello, one of the original organizers, was arriving with her little boy in her arms. She said there will be a General Assembly in the usual place — on the Morgan Street sidewalk — at 6:30. A contingent, about 25 folks, were there already. Another, about as big, had walked to the Wake County Jail to await the release of Schucker, Gad & the others.
Here's the original blog post from earlier this afternoon:
Just got a call, and a string of tweets: The Occupy Raleigh folks, assembled peaceably on the sidewalk south of the State Capitol for 12 days, were told a half hour ago to get out by the Capitol cops. (Not the Raleigh P.D., that's a different organization.) Tweeters are asking for sympathizers to show up and be counted. I'm headed that way in a few.
Just when we were so pleased about Raleigh not being like Oakland.
By the way, Jeremy Gilchrist of Carrboro and OccupyRaleigh, respectively, has written an anthem for the movement. He's sharing it — you can hear it — here. "There's a Rising on Wall Street." Sounds good. "The right side of love and history."