Occupy OKC protesters stay in park after deadline

Oklahoma City officials said Monday protesters will no longer be allowed to stay overnight at Kerr Park, and they have declined to renew the $55 per day permit the group has been using to stay in the park.
BY BRYAN DEAN, TIFFANY GIBSON and MICHAEL KIMBALL Modified: November 29, 2011 at 12:14 am •  Published: November 28, 2011

About 100 protesters with Occupy OKC remained Monday night in Kerr Park in downtown Oklahoma City, even though their permit to camp overnight was not renewed.

About 11 p.m., the protesters marched and chanted, “Whose park? Our park. Whose streets? Our streets.”

All the while, two police cruisers waited watchfully nearby on Couch Drive. The officers made no move toward the protest.

The officers said they have been there every night since the protest began about two months ago trying to keep the protesters and everyone else involved safe.

The officers know the camping permit expired at 11 p.m., but they said they had no orders or plans to move in overnight.

Mark Faulk, 55, of Oklahoma City, is one of the organizers.

He said the group has a meeting with police about 8 a.m. Tuesday.

Faulk said an organizer from the Occupy L.A. group was in from Los Angeles to coach the protesters about how to react if the police came to arrest them and how to continue to peacefully protest.

Permit wasn't renewed by city

Earlier in the day, Oklahoma City officials said they were no longer going to allow Occupy OKC protesters to camp overnight in Kerr Park, which caused an uproar among occupiers. Some of them vowed to be arrested rather than be evicted.

The group has been allowed to stay in the park overnight for the past two months, and Oklahoma City so far has avoided violence and confrontations between police and protesters that have occurred in some other cities, including Tulsa.

Police Capt. Dexter Nelson said the group had been getting a permit that costs $55 a day.

“The permit will not be renewed this time,” Nelson said Monday. “The park will revert to its regular hours, closing time being 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. They will be permitted to come there during the day, but they won't be permitted to camp out all night.”

City officials said they met Monday afternoon with the group's organizers to discuss the city's decision not to renew the permit.

Occupy organizer Beth Isabell, 49, of Oklahoma City, said she went to pay the permit Monday but was denied. She said the group received donations over the Thanksgiving holiday, and they were going to pay through the rest of the week.

The police department issued a letter, explaining that occupiers would be evicted from the park between 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., Isabell said.

“They rejected our payment and gave us this letter,” she said, adding that some participants won't leave after the curfew.

Isabell said some protesters will accept citations, and others will be arrested before they leave. It's something that the group hopes to avoid, she said.

Occupier Jaymie Johnson said he was laid off as a firefighter and has been protesting at the park for equal employment opportunities for all Americans.

“I'm definitely ready to be arrested,” he said. “We're occupying this park, and I'm not going to leave until there's a change.”

Construction to begin

Assistant City Manager M.T. Berry, a former police chief, said city officials had come to an agreement with the Occupy protesters allowing them to camp overnight at Kerr Park, which is not allowed by city ordinances, as long as the protesters complied with the terms for paid permits to use the park during the day.

Berry said that changed, in part because of issues presented by construction on the SandRidge campus and also because of an incident early Sunday.

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