Occupy protests told to clean up; veteran kills self in Vermont
With some Occupy Wall Street-style protests across the nation facing pressure from authorities to control crime and filth or face closure, police in Vermont are investigating a shooting at the Occupy Burlington encampment that left a military veteran dead.
Police in Burlington say early indications are that the man shot himself in the head Thursday inside a tent in City Hall Park. The name of the 35-year-old, from Vermont, was not released. Occupy Burlington released a statement Thursday night saying the incident gave it an "ever deeper resolve to stand with our most vulnerable citizens."
"This person has clearly needed more help than we were capable of giving him here at this park," the Associated Press quoted one protester, Emily Reynolds, as saying. She echoed others who said that, if the government offered better services to troubled military veterans, "this probably wouldn't have happened."
The shooting came on the heels of another shooting Thursday that left a man dead near the Occupy Oakland encampment, where police and protesters have had several violent clashes. That shooting was determined to not be linked to the anti-greed movement, but it underscored some officials' concerns about the potential for more violence and lawlessness as the Occupy encampments across the country grow and protesters resist local efforts to control them.
In Portland, Ore., the mayor has ordered the city's protesters to leave two downtown parks by midnight Saturday, calling them dangerous, filthy and a haven for criminals.
In Burlington, the Free Press described a tense scene late Thursday as the city closed half of City Hall Park, where protesters' tents and living spaces are located, and ordered a halt to camping there.
Police and the mayor, Bob Kiss, said they needed to close part of the camp temporarily to investigate the shooting, but word flew around the camp that it was to be permanently dismantled. That led to scuffles and yelling, and at one point a young woman was arrested by police. After Kiss intervened, she was freed.
But the encampment's future remained in question. A statement from Kiss' office said that for the time being, "no tenting or camping will be allowed in the park." The statement said that people were free to give speeches and gather in the section of City Hall Park that was not cordoned off.
In New York, where a private Manhattan park has been occupied by protesters since Sept. 17, police on Thursday arrested a man they described as emotionally disturbed on suspicion of pushing an emergency medical technician called to the park to help the man. Some protesters agreed that the man needed help but denied accusations he kicked or pushed the EMT.
"This guy was clearly crazy and the security people were trying to keep him under control," protester spokesman Jeff Smith said in an amNewYork report. But Smith said the man never tried to hurt the medic. "The EMT was backing up and tripped and fell" as the crowd tried to make room for police, he said.
-- Tina Susman
Photo: Police stand guard at a section of Occupy Burlington in Vermont that was closed after a shooting. Credit: Emily McManamy/Burlington Free Press/AP