by John Dingler
Saturday, Dec. 03, 2011 at 12:02 PM
The Riverside Police Dept. removed on Wed. Nov. 30, 2011 all Riverside Occupy tents from Location A established on Main St Promenade between 9th St. and University Ave.
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During Tuesday's General Assembly, an Occupier with a friend with apparent City Hall connections stated that a possible raid was planned for Wed. morning between 4AM and 6AM. Giving this rumor credence were an uptick in cruisers driving slower than normally up and down 9th. St and University Ave, two police officers inquiring the day before on Tue. morning about the disposition of our population such as the total population of our Occupiers attending our occupation, and the number of Occupiers who may be currently resting inside their tents.
I had the confidence to conclude that the police in sleepy Riverside would not embark on a raid before sunrise, so I got up rather late at 5:30, one and a half hour after the rumored start of the invasion, made breakfast, fed the cats with the turkey dinner left over from Thanksgiving dinner, and had a coffee. I left at 6:05, driving leisurely to the location.
When I arrived at 6:10 an occupier who was removing his tent casually informed me that a strong police presence consisting of cars, motorcycles manned by RPD in militarized uniforms equipped with batons, combat helmets, and at least one officer with a rifle with gas canisters was assembling at the parking lot to the far side of the Arts Block on 9th St. across the street from Riverside City Hall.
By 6:15 AM, the RPD marched approx. 40 troops to the 9th St. sidewalk, lining them up, and then marched approx. 40 troops onto the University Ave. sidewalk to create a sort of loose perimeter such as in a battlefield, leaving the remaining 24 or so of the 104 troops (as stated by Chief Diaz) to organize the removal, demolition, and hauling away of all tents, signs, and personal belongings not claimed.
The removal process was orderly, even appearing scripted, without visible physical violence, with police officers methodically and calmly approaching each tent, inquiring as to occupancy and ownership. Under the close scrutiny of phone cameras from Riverside Occupiers as well as cameras and reporters from the Press-Enterprise Newspaper, the RPD chose to allow each tent holder to disassemble and remove things at his or her own pace, with the process to clear out the main location lasting approx. one hour, ending at approx. 7:15 AM on the same day.
Unclaimed tents and belongings were gathered up by the city's maintenance and clean up crew and taken to the Riverside Corporation Yard, 8095 Lincoln Ave at Adams St. for temporary storage lasting for up to one month max. Logan's sofa chair is apparently there as well as some signs and tents. One crew member said that the claim process might involve asking the RPD for permission to reclaim any belongings but, because the haul was not taken to the RPD impound yard, but was instead taken to the less strict Corporation Yard, the claimant would likely not be subject to a police citation, this, according to the dump truck driver.
Occupiers walked off of the promenade for other locations in small groups or alone, either carrying their disassembled tents, sleeping bags, or simply a back pack. Angel was one of two who responded with defiance. Approx. 25 years of age and petite, she took her disassembled tent across University Ave. to the foot of the Dosan Ahn Chang-Ho Memorial, a Korean hero, and sat down on her collapsed tent to make a heroic stand. I learned of her act only after two squads of officers in full riot gear began marching in formation before the Culver Ctr. of the Arts and toward her. The RPD arrested her for not complying with an ordinance, citing and later freeing her.
Occupier Logan also resisted, making his stand about 70 feet away in front of restaurant Phood on Main. After refusing to comply to RPD orders, it handcuffed, cited, threw him into a police car, hauled him away, and later freed him. Don't know who the third Occupier arrestee was.
A touching moment occurred later when the soft-hearted but determined Anita decided to reestablish the Occupy Riverside encampment in this public space after it was all cleared out. She is a regular and optimistic participant in the General Assembly. She laid down in the center of the meeting area where we hold the General Assembly each day at 7PM, apparently resolving to stay to once again resist the eviction and assert her right to resist civilly. Officer Dillon, the same officer who asserted that the Bank of America has the right to engage in racial discrimination, and who was now supervising the sweep up action warned her of an impending arrest should she choose to remain. When the sympathetic Katherine, a teacher and mother of two young children, embraced the teary Anita and exchanged some consoling words, Anita rose up in her arms, and both slowly walked away. Officer Dillon responded, "I really did not want to arrest you," and "Thank you."
RPD Chief of Police, Sergio Diaz, a couple of lieutenants, and several sergeants supervised the eviction and dispersal of our Riverside Occupiers. At some point I asked Chief Diaz if Occupy Riverside could reestablish its tents, and in the same location. Smiling mischievously, he spread the palms of his hands apart about five inches apart to indicate that only small, toy-size tents would be allowed, saying something like, “There would be no problem if you put down tents of this size as a symbolic gesture of free speech.” To a local reporter, he revealed that "We received cooperation, by and large, from demonstrators." Later, I asked Diaz if the RPD was in communication with the Dept. of Homeland Security for things like this. He replied, " "Not regarding these kinds of activities." "Oh?," I wondered, "For which activities then is the RPD communicating with the DHS?"
The eviction and dispersal seems to be evidence that market forces in a democracy, touted so much by Rightwingers and Rightwing Democrats as being the perfect system to underpin society, do not work as promoted for indigents, those who can't afford various medical care, the innocently unemployed, and students.
Before witnessing the unfolding of the police action at Site A, I made a brief visit to out other site, Site B. It is located on private property, with city permits issued for tents and overnight stays. I was surprised to see that a mere four tents remained, all on the lower lot, with food tables on the lot above lot all gone, now occupied by cars. I never thought that occupying private property, such as at the union hall, with a city permit meant much in the context of civil disobedience.