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Occupy San Diego: ACLU wants charges dropped against protesters

October 28, 2011 |  4:41 pm

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The ACLU sought Friday to have charges dropped against 51 protesters from the Occupy San Diego movement who were arrested when police cleared the civic plaza and a downtown park about 2 a.m.

Kevin Keenan, executive director of the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial counties, said he asked Police Chief Bill Lansdowne to have the charges dropped because some of the protesters may have to spend several nights in jail until they are able to make bail.

"Historically, the San Diego Police Department has managed protest activity exceedingly well, with a focus on accommodation of speech in the broader public interest," Keenan said after talking to Lansdowne. "Overnight presence is fundamental to the political message of Occupy San Diego."

Keenan said the city should "develop rules and a system for accommodating other overnight activities with a political purpose."

Lansdowne said the sweep was ordered after protesters refused to remove tents, tarps, chairs and other property from the plaza behind City Hall. More than 100 officers, backed by San Diego County sheriff's deputies, arrested protesters who refused to move. No injuries were reported and no tear gas was used.

Mayor Jerry Sanders, a former police chief, said he supports the chief's decision to oust protesters who refused to move.

"The city of San Diego supports anyone's right to protest," Sanders said in a statement. "However, when health and safety issues arise, or when protesters fail to comply with the law, appropriate action must be taken."

Some of the protesters had been camped in the civic plaza since the protest began Oct. 8.

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--Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: Protesters in the civic plaza confront police hours after the removal of tents and other property and the arrest of 51 people.  Credit: Denis Poroy / Reuters

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