The Occupy Davis movement is still active in Central Park, tents included, despite recent events on the UC Davis campus. Occupy did temporarily move to a different location in Central Park to comply with City of Davis’ demands.
Occupy Davis originally set up tents in the park on Oct. 15 and have since continued camping.
Last Thursday, city staff brought protesters a notice of changes to make to the encampment, including fire concerns due to dry grass underneath the tents, health permits for cooking, removing pets and signs on oak trees in the park and other stipulations.
Initial reports said police came to take down Central Park’s tents Thursday morning, but city staff actually delivered the notice. Lieutenant Paul Doroshov of the Davis Police Department clarified that city police are not involved in any decisions made for the future of the encampment.
According to Deputy City Manager Kelley Stachowicz, the most pressing issue for the city was that the group’s two tarps needed to be replaced with a fire-resistant one as soon as possible. The group deadline was set for Monday and it did buy a fire-marshal-approved fire retardant tarp last Friday.
“It’s a balancing act between lawful assembly and public safety maintenance,” Stachowicz said. “We did need to do some maintenance on the grass [Monday], so Occupy Davis did agree to move their tents temporarily for this purpose.”
The group said tents will be periodically moved around to avoid doing permanent damage to the grass.
Occupy Davis participant and junior political science major Artem Raskin said the tarp did not have an official stamp of approval from the fire marshal, but is made of fire retardant vinyl.
At a meeting Occupy Davis had with Councilmember Stephen Souza last Thursday night, several occupiers suggested that fire safety was being used by the city as an excuse to begin undermining the occupation.
“Souza failed to promise that the city would allow the occupation to continue if the city demands were addressed,” Raskin said. “Nevertheless, Occupy Davis is moving to address the demands. Counting a 10 percent discount provided by the seller to help out the movement, the tarp cost $587.”
Aaron Long, who graduated with a degree in sociology in 2011 and who has been visiting the occupation, said he found the Occupy Davis protest to be the most peaceful occupation he’s seen in the country.
Councilmember Souza said he has been dropping in at Central Park everyday to reach out to the protesters and reach a collaborative solution.
“We respect the right of free speech, but we also respect the laws on the books,” Souza said. “We are requiring that the Occupy protesters get a health permit for cooking and other stipulations. Unlike the university, Central Park is a public space, so protesters can stay here.”
He also said that representatives of the city of Davis work with the police collaboratively, in a different way than how the university operates, and commented on the pepper spraying of students that occurred Friday on campus.
“The city’s methods are different from the university’s,” Souza said. “Although I’m not in law enforcement, there’s an easier way to arrest without use of force, at least to the degree of which it was used on Friday.”
Raskin said the movement has been rejuvenated with the surge of student activity on campus last week. He also said that since the police crackdown last Friday, the two groups — Occupy Davis and Occupy UC Davis — have come together in solidarity.
“Many students originally involved in Occupy Davis have joined Occupy UCD and shared their experience in organizing an occupation,” Raskin said in an e-mail. “And for the time being, the two occupations jointly run the donations and support from the student body to Occupy Davis have skyrocketed in the past few days. Community members awoken by the crackdown have also come out to the occupation in Central Park in greater numbers.”
Raskin said most events are planned on short notice. But many Occupy Davis members attended the rally on UC Davis Quad Monday at noon.
A teach-in on cooperatives sponsored by the California Center for Cooperative Development is planned for Nov. 30.
“In the long term, Occupy Davis hopes to work with other Occupy groups to provide regular people with a space to voice their concerns, challenge establishment discourse and engage in direct political action,” Raskin said.
ANGELA SWARTZ can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.