Police clear downtown park, arrest 10 Occupy Tulsa protesters
BY ZACK STOYCOFF World Staff Writer
Thursday, November 03, 2011
11/03/11 at 5:19 AM
Related story: TPD defends tactics.
Police arrested 10 Occupy Tulsa protesters - and pepper-sprayed at least five of them - after confronting them early Wednesday at downtown's H.A. Chapman Centennial Green, where protesters have camped since Friday.
Police said a force of 25 officers confronted a crowd of about 50 protesters at the park just before 2 a.m. and pepper-sprayed five in a group of 10 who had locked arms and refused to leave.
The holdouts were booked into the Tulsa Jail on complaints of violating the citywide park curfew of 11 p.m., while five were also accused of obstructing officers or resisting arrest, records show.
Police Chief Chuck Jordan said he decided to begin enforcing the curfew Tuesday night after days of discussing possible actions with the city's Legal Department.
Jordan said police wanted them to step onto the sidewalk, out of the curfew zone.
"I can't stress enough - the arrests last night had nothing to do with their right to assembly," Jordan said in a press conference Wednesday morning.
"They can protest on the sidewalk without any bother from us."
According to a police report, the 10 holdouts were "given a reasonable amount of time to leave the park area" but linked arms and ignored commands to allow police to handcuff them.
A video posted on YouTube shows police informing protesters of the curfew ordinance on a loudspeaker as the protesters chant. Protesters later said that at one point they recited Psalm 23, the Bible passage that begins, "The Lord is my shepherd."
Most of the group eventually left the park, but the holdouts sat in a circle and told police that they would not resist arrest but also would not move, protesters said.
"No one resisted anybody. They were noncompliant," said Nick Cox, who said he has been protesting since Saturday.
"They just thought their constitutional right to free assembly overruled local city rules."
Posts on the group's Facebook page claim that nine protesters were pepper-sprayed despite efforts to follow police instructions.
"We did exactly what the police said to do not to get pepper sprayed and they still did it," one post reads.
Jordan said police used the spray as a last resort - after multiple warnings - and that it was the only way to arrest five of the holdouts without injuring them.
"They wanted that notoriety. They wanted to be arrested," he said. "We want to do it as peaceful and without injury as possible. Sometimes the other side won't let that happen."
Cox said he doesn't fault the police for clearing the park but wishes they had not used pepper spray.
"I understand following orders. I was in Iraq for nine months," he said. "The pepper spray and violence I don't understand."
Arrested were Masar Alabdul-Baqi, 26, of Tulsa; Shane Algiere, 25, of Tulsa; Lawrence Black, 36, of Austin, Texas; Amanda Danielle Hammack, 29, of Tulsa; John Harlien, 37, of Tulsa; Jeffrey Allen Key, 27, of Tulsa; Brittany Mercer, 26, of Tulsa; Samval David Molik, 24, of Tulsa; Elias Beautemuell Silva, 23, of Tulsa; and John Franklin Vanzant, 20, of Mounds.
Three had outstanding warrants on driver's license and automobile-related citations and were arrested on those complaints, as well.
All had been released on bond by Wednesday afternoon.
Bail for curfew violations was set at $300 and for obstructing or resisting officers at $150.
The Chapman Green is on Sixth Street between Boston Avenue and Main Street. The park curfew ended at 5 a.m., and a handful of protesters returned and slept in sleeping bags on the grass.
Original Print Headline: Police clear downtown park, make 10 arrests
Zack Stoycoff 918-581-8486
A group of Tulsa police officers armed with air rifles surrounds an officer arresting an Occupy Tulsa protester early Wednesday at the H.A. Chapman Centennial Green downtown. Police warned demonstrators that they were in violation of a city park curfew and gave them the choice of leaving before officers used pepper spray and forcibly removed demonstrators shortly before 2 a.m. JEFF LAUTENBERGER/Tulsa World