Flag burning at Occupy Charlotte creates divide among members

The burning of American flags by members of the Occupy Charlotte encampment has drawn sharp criticism of the group, but has also sowed division among its members.

Some protesters have vowed to leave the camp if the flag-burners are not ousted from the group, while others have vowed to leave if they are.

Four men were, including two who were members of the Occupy group, were arrested after burning two U.S. flags at the North Carolina encampment Friday afternoon, the Charlotte Observer reported.

Burning the flag is not illegal, but authorities arrested them for careless use of a fire because they did not use a fire pit, a misdemeanor charge. All four were released after posting bond.

Alex Tyler, 19, one of the men arrested in the flag burning, spoke to the group during a meeting late Friday, telling them that although he is sorry for the adverse effects his actions may have on the movement, he is not sorry for having burned the flag.

"Those were actions taken on my own behalf," Alex Tyler said at the meeting, according to the Charlotte Observer. Tyler said he burned the flag to display contempt for American greed and not the military.

At the meeting, the group discussed consequences for both the flag-burners and a small sect of members who issued a news release denouncing the burning without first clearing it with the whole assembly, according to the group’s website.

Half of the group threatened to leave the camp if those who burned the flag were not kicked out, while the other half threatened to leave if they were kicked out.

The group planned on discussing the issue at a meeting Saturday.

Some people took to the group’s Facebook page to denounce the flag burning.

“You people have chosen a extremely poor way to represent your feelings,” commented Jason Hathaway. “I hope that you understand that by burning our nation's flag, you have spit in the face of the military and the families of the military that fight for you and the freedoms that you all take for granted.”


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Protest resumes after Denver police raid Occupy Wall Street camp

As many as 50 demonstrators returned to downtown Denver on Tuesday morning after police cleared out an Occupy Wall Street protest overnight, arresting nine, including one for setting makeshift structures on fire. 

This morning’s demonstration unfolded without incident, Lt. Matt Murray, a Denver Police Department spokesman, said in a telephone interview. Protesters will be allowed to continue their demonstration but they will not be permitted to build any structures, he said.

Police moved overnight against the structures, which Murray said had turned the downtown area near the Capitol and city buildings into a “shantytown,” with some constructions made out of wood. The protest site and park took up more than a quarter of a block, he said.

Under city law, protesters are not allowed to build structures either in the park or an the adjacent sidewalks, Murray said. Police have been trying to get the structures removed for weeks.

When police arrived at the scene late Monday night, some of the protesters set the structures on fire, Murray said. "In order to protect life and property, police called the fire department” to put out the fires. The remaining structures were then removed, he said.

One person was accused of felony arson, the most serious charge resulting from the incident.

No police or firefighters were injured, Murray said.

Occupy protests began in September in New York City, then spread through the nation. But officials, citing concerns about security and public safety, have been closing down the Occupy sites through the autumn.


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Photo: Police shove a protester as they move to evict Occupy Denver demonstrators from Civic Center Park. Credit: Daniel Petty/ Denver Post

Occupy protesters arrested; is this their last push until spring?

Police officer guards entrance to vacant lot near Duarte Park

More than 50 Occupy Wall Street protesters reportedly were arrested Saturday as they tried to make a vacant lot adjacent to New York's Duarte Square into their new Zuccotti Park. 

At least one report says this could be the movement's last hurrah before spring.

Hundreds of Occupy protesters were on the march Saturday. They were stopped by police after using a wooden ladder to climb over a chain-link fence into a lot owned by Trinity Church, Reuters reports. A National Lawyers Guild official put the number of arrested at 55, according to the report, including five to 10 clergy. Police removed Occupy campers from Zuccotti Park, their previous home base, in Lower Manhattan on Nov. 15.

FULL COVERAGE: Occupy protests

The first protester over the fence Saturday -- and among those taken into custody -- reportedly was retired Episcopal Bishop George Packard. The New York Post says Packard is a former chaplain for the armed services and decorated Vietnam veteran and has tried to help negotiate with Trinity Church to use church-owned property as a new base for the Occupy movement in New York.

Packard's blog, which details his involvement in the Occupy movement, was updated by his wife Saturday.

In the crush of police and chanting protesters, I looked up to see George up and over the fence into Trinity's vacant lot. OWS had built a pretty sturdy stairway (Bob Vila and other handy folk, take note). Others followed. I pushed through the crowd to take a video. "My husband is there ... please." The protesters amiably made room.

According to the Mother Jones blog, organizers said this attempt at a new encampment was probably their last until spring, "and the whole thing felt nostalgic even before it was over." One sign carried by protesters read: "I left my heart in Zuccotti Park."


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Photo: A New York police officer guards the entrance to Duarte Square on Saturday after Occupy Wall Street protesters attempted to create a new encampment. Credit: John Minchillo / Associated Press

Noisy protesters close in on Port of Seattle

Occupy seattle port

Police deployed stun grenades and pepper spray to disperse protesters Monday evening at the Port of Seattle, where several hundred anti-corporate demonstrators briefly blockaded a major shipping terminal and then swarmed toward another.

Port officials said the demonstration, part of a wave of port protests up and down the West Coast waged by the Occupy Wall Street movement, had minimal impact on port operations because most offloads and deliveries had been completed earlier in the day.

"By the time the protesters got there, most of the day shifts were almost over," port spokesman Peter McGraw said of the blockade at Terminal 18. "Three of our terminals were not impacted at all, and traffic is moving again at the one that was. It's had just minimal impact to our cargo movement."

McGraw said longshoremen at Terminal 18, the primary target, already had decided not to work a second shift on Monday -- prompting protest leaders by midafternoon to declare they had shut down the facility.

Whether port workers at Terminal 5 would attempt to go to work later Monday night remained up in the air.

The reported light clashes with police appear to have occurred as a significant group of protesters moved toward Terminal 5 on Monday evening ahead of a scheduled shift change, and police moved in to clear remaining demonstrators from Terminal 18. Some protesters reported they had been trampled by police on horseback.

"We shut it down! We shut it down!" protesters shouted from the parking lot at Terminal 5 Monday night.

"The paddy wagons are here. The riot cops are here. It's got all the makings of a party!" Occupy Seattle said on its live feed from the scene.

Occupy Seattle's spokesman, Mark Taylor-Canfield, said several protesters reported being hit with pepper spray. They also reported the use of stun grenades, which make a loud sound intended to frighten and disperse crowds, though police said they could not immediately confirm that either had been used.

"This is too fluid and dynamic a situation. Things are happening way too quick," Seattle police spokesman Jeff Kappel said in a telephone interview.

He said there had been at least three detentions, though reports from the scene suggested there were more.

Worse was the traffic: Spokane Street near the port was blocked in both directions, not far from where cars were trying to make their way toward Seahawks stadium for Monday Night Football.

In Portland, meanwhile, where an Occupy demonstration shut down two major loading terminals Monday morning, demonstrators regrouped by late afternoon and headed toward another terminal.

"Now we are headed to Terminal 4, which is about a three-mile walk, and we're going to shut it down," said James Douglas Gless, president of a land development and environmental engineering consulting firm in Oregon City, who joined the protests.

Gless said he decided to participate because of growing frustration with the political process.

"I'm a 56-year-old corporate president. The last three years were good to me. But I've got two kids that have got to grow up in a country that has been stolen by these huge national and multinational corporations," he told the Times. "What else can we do? We want our votes again."

--Kim Murphy in Seattle


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Photo: Protesters at the Port of Seattle on Monday. Credit: Occupy Seattle website


Occupy protests shut down 2 Portland terminals, spread to Seattle

Occupy protests targeting ports in California spread up through the Pacific Northwest on Monday, shutting down two main shipping terminals at the Port of Portland before leading to a boisterous march on the Port of Seattle.

Portland's main container terminal, the largest and busiest shipping facility at the port, closed early in the day as about 200 protesters marched in at dawn, setting up a tent and portable toilets.

Demonstrators also shut down nearby Terminal 5, which handles grain and potash shipments. "We're going to see some lost hours, lost shifts -- people won't be able to work today because of this," Josh Thomas, spokesman for the port, told The Times.

Demonstrators linked to the Occupy Wall Street movement set up pickets from San Diego to Anchorage on Monday as part of a coordinated move to shut down ports across the West Coast. In Portland, they carried signs and shouted slogans near trucks waiting to enter the terminals, effectively blocking operations as many port workers refused to cross their lines.

"Sorry for any inconvenience while we fix our democracy," said a sign waved in front of one blocked truck.

As in Los Angeles, protesters in both Portland and Seattle were targeting terminals operated by Stevedore Services of America (SSA Marine), which is locked in a labor dispute with truck drivers in Los Angeles. Occupy movement leaders said SSA's operations are also being singled out because SSA's parent company, Seattle-based Carrix Inc., has Wall Street banking and securities firm Goldman Sachs as a major shareholder.

The biggest unions operating at the Northwest ports did not endorse the shut-downs, though protest organizers said the actions were in part an attempt to express solidarity with union workers' rights. That was the case not only with the Los Angeles truckers, but also in Longview, Wash., where the International Longshore and Warehouse Union has been fighting attempts to block its members from working at a new $200-million grain shipping facility in favor of another union.

Longview's port was closed Monday after about 60 Occupy protesters blocked access to the single ship in port, which was awaiting discharge of a load of iron oxide.

"The decision was made shortly after 8:00 to not work the one vessel we had in today, so approximately 20 longshoremen did not work today," port spokeswoman Ashley Helenberg said.

Occupy Portland organizers said they succeeded in shutting down the two terminals because many port workers refused to cross their moving picket lines.

"The vast majority of workers chose to respect the picket lines. A few did choose to cross it and were let through at Terminal 5. But it was only a handful. The workers in not wanting to cross the line supported this action," David Osborn, an instructor at Portland State University who was acting as a spokesman for the demonstrators, said in an interview.

Thomas said police from a variety of state and federal agencies were on hand to monitor the demonstrations, which were scheduled to ramp up again by late afternoon with a bike swarm and perhaps persist through the night. There were at least three arrests, for possession of a weapon, a stolen vehicle and an outstanding warrant, Thomas said.

In Seattle, demonstrators assembled near the scene of the disbanded Occupy Seattle tent camp and began making their way down to the port, where two rallies were scheduled as a police helicopter circled overhead.

"I think that people would really like to close the port, actually. That's what the posters are saying. They're definitely going to picket, and part of shutting down the port is also whether the labor union members will cross the picket line. That's the big question," Mark Taylor-Canfield, an Occupy Seattle spokesman, told The Times.

"It's definitely not a situation where people want any kind of a confrontation with longshoremen or Teamsters. They are definitely part of the 99%," he added.

The Port of Seattle warned that middle-class wages could be at stake in any attempt to close the port. "Nearly 22,000 men and women work in jobs created by the cargo that moves across the port’s docks. Just one day’s wages for those jobs total $1.9 million –- dollars that can’t be earned if they can’t go to work," the port said in a statement.

In Portland, port administrators said they were fielding growing expressions of frustration over the shutdown, which affected at least five ships and hundreds of trucks poised to load or offload goods at the port.

"The lost wages, that’s a real concern for a lot of people, and we've also heard from some customers today who are really fed up and upset about why they've not been able to get service today, or why things are being delayed as a result of the protests, and we share in that frustration," Thomas said.


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Photo: Police on bikes form a line against protesters who shut down two terminals at the Port of Portland on Monday in one of a series of demonstrations targeting West Coast ports. Credit: Natalie Behring / Getty Images

Occupy Wall Street occupies 'Law & Order' set

It finally happened. After occupying scores of parks and plazas from coast to coast, Occupy Wall Street occupied itself early Friday, crashing a replica of its lower Manhattan camp that was the backdrop for an episode of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit."

Still fuming over the city's destruction of the original Occupy camp in Zuccotti Park last month, protesters said the use of Occupy Wall Street's image by the TV show represented the sort of corporate exploitation the movement is trying to crush. "This is not us," Drew Hornbein of Brooklyn said, the Daily News reported. "We are not part of corporate TV America."

There was no immediate response from NBC, which produces "Law & Order" and which was ordered by police to halt production after about 100 protesters swarmed the perimeter of the set. But the incident was likely to infuriate Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has made it a goal to lure filmmakers and television productions to the city. Just last September, he noted that a record 23 primetime shows, such as "Law & Order: SVU," were being filmed in New York City, part of an industry that supports 100,000 jobs.

"This is where the best television in the world is being made," he said at the time.

That may have been true overnight in Manhattan's Foley Square, though not for the reasons the mayor had in mind. According to local media reports, the action began about midnight Thursday after the fake Occupy Wall Street camp was erected in the plaza, one of the (real) movement's favorite rallying spots. Occupy supporters, some carrying protest signs, made clear they weren't happy with the set, calling it an insult to the movement.

It's not clear if the fake camp included all the staples of the original, from ear-blasting drumming circles to pet rats. But like the real Occupy camp, the TV set featured plenty of stone-faced cops. They eventually called a halt to the production and said the film permit had been rescinded for the time being.

The incident was another example of Occupy Wall Street's ability to remain a thorn in the side of politicians and corporations, weeks after police nationwide began dismantling the camps that had grown in most major cities. In Boston on Friday, a showdown was looming after Occupy Boston protesters ignored a deadline to leave the camp there, while Phoenix police overnight arrested several protesters and began taking down tents at the Occupy Phoenix camp.  

And starting next year, Occupy Wall Street will be part of the curriculum at New York University. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the school will offer two classes on the movement, one an undergraduate class and the other a graduate-level seminar.

-- Tina Susman in New York


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Photo: Occupy Wall Street supporters march in Washington on Thursday. Credit: Jose Luis Magana/Associated Press

New Mexico 'Occupy' protesters: The 99% who love chile

Green chile
The Occupy Wall Street movement has inspired folks from Atlanta to Alaska. But the most unusual might be an offshoot in New Mexico that targets food production instead of finance.

Introducing Occupy Green/Red Chile.

New Mexico culture and cuisine owes a fair amount to New Mexico's chile, the spicy red and green pepper that locals add to just about everything. (Please don’t insult it with the spelling “chili.” That’s so ... Texas.)

In the last two decades, the number of acres of chile grown in New Mexico has dropped 75%, the Associated Press reports. That’s partly due to restaurateurs and grocers turning to less expensive peppers from Mexico and Asia.

Now, with scientists at New Mexico State University studying the genetic makeup of the red and green peppers, some folks fear an onslaught of scientifically tweaked chile.

They say peppers altered to grow taller and to better withstand disease could hurt small growers, though chile industry experts have said that’s unlikely. The protesters’ fears also play into an ongoing debate about the safety of genetically modified food. 

So last weekend, Occupy Green/Red Chile members gathered in Albuquerque, KRQE-TV reported, and marched through downtown in bone-chilling temperatures. Their signs demanded “No poison in our green chile” and, in a nod to the protest's origins, “Don't let big corporations steal our state pride.”


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Photo: A green chile is picked during one of New Mexico's earliest harvests. Credit: Norman Martin / New Mexico State University

In Seattle, Occupy protesters got ousted -- and got organized

The future of Occupy demonstrations in other cities may be in doubt, with police and city officials from New York to L.A.moving to oust the encampments, but Occupy Seattle has if anything become better-organized since protesters were evicted from the city center at Westlake Park.

After their ouster, the demonstrators decamped to Seattle Central Community College, on the outskirts of downtown on Capitol Hill, where about 100 tents remain, and protesters continue to mount regular marches, rallies and protest actions.

The largest was Monday in the state capital of Olympia, when about 3,000 protesters arrived at the capitol during a special legislative session on measures to close Washington state’s ever-reappearing budget gap with, among other ideas, a new half-cent sales tax.

“Tax the 1% not the 99%. NO SALES TAX,” one Occupy Olympia banner said.

FULL COVERAGE: Occupy protests across the nation

Occupy Seattle protesters, who have been flush with donations from private grantors, labor unions and others since their celebrated eviction, chartered buses to the state capitol for the event. An estimated 300 protesters staged a sit-in inside the capitol dome, from which about 100 holdouts who refused to disperse were ejected by police wielding, in at least two instances, stun guns.

About 30 people were arrested. Six state troopers were injured during the raucous standoff, two with bite injuries, four with bumps and bruises.

College administrators have ordered the remaining tent camp to leave — an eviction order being challenged in court Friday, with Occupy leaders arguing that there is no provision in state law prohibiting camping on state-owned college campuses.

About 30 protesters have also taken up occupation of an empty foreclosed house — “Occupy Everything — No Banks, No Landlords,” says a new sign outside.

Occupy Seattle spokesman Mark Taylor-Canfield said leaders also are considering the possibility of moving for the wet, cold Seattle winter into an empty warehouse, if not by outright occupation, then perhaps via a donation from a nonprofit organization. The group could even rent space using the Occupy movement’s growing cash stash.

“Covered space would be good. We could have live electronic music events. We could have power, we could also have infrastructure — we could have offices!” he said.

Crucial to the movement’s ongoing dynamism, though, is the fact that the city has granted it a permit to have a daily information booth at the scene of the original occupation at Westlake Park, in the downtown shopping district, and has also allowed marches and rallies by permit on a fairly regular basis.

Occupy Seattle has held regular teach-ins, arts-and-crafts booths, labor chorus performances and even a square dance organized, ostensibly, by the Seattle Subversive Square Dance Society featuring Peckin’ Out Dough as caller.

Last week, Occupy protesters staged an “Occupy Black Friday” picket at a Wal-Mart in nearby Renton, Wash., where 80 protesters carried signs and yelled at shoppers: “It’s not your purpose in life to be a consumer!”

“We’ve definitely not lost momentum. Actually, it’s built, and we’re becoming more mobile,” Taylor-Canfield said. He said the city’s agreement to allow a permanent information booth presence downtown has been key.

“It’s very important for us to be in the main public square, like the town crier of old,” he said.


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Video: Police move Occupy Olympia protesters who were sitting in the street Monday blocking a busload of arrestees from leaving for jail.  Credit: YouTube

Another one gone: Occupy Philly camp joins list of cleared camps

 Philly police

Police dismantled the Occupy Philly encampment outside Philadelphia's City Hall early Wednesday, moving in shortly after midnight and driving out scores of people who had defied a Sunday evening deadline to take down their tents and leave.

About 50 people were arrested, most of them after scattering from the encampment and staging an impromptu march through downtown, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Three police officers reportedly suffered minor injuries, and some protesters were injured as well, none seriously.

Occupy Philly's dismantling came the same night that police in Los Angeles removed Occupy LA demonstrators from their own camp; both cities' actions were the latest in a nationwide series of similar raids that have taken place in the last month. 

FULL COVERAGE: Occupy protests around the nation

Mayors and police officials have cited safety concerns and noise issues as among the reasons for cracking down on the camps, which began springing up in mid-September and initially enjoyed mostly cordial relations with local political leaders.

In Philadelphia, Mayor Michael Nutter's patience with Occupy Philly began running out a couple of weeks ago after a man was arrested for a reported rape at the camp. Nutter also accused Occupy Philly in recent days of blocking a long-planned renovation project for Dilworth Plaza, where the protesters were camping -- a project he said would give jobs to the working-class people that Occupy Philly claimed to represent.

Nutter said that when the group first set up its tents Oct. 6, it had promised city officials that protesters would abide by local regulations and not stand in the way of the renovation.

The city tried to persuade the protesters to move to nearby Thomas Paine Plaza but mandated that even if they moved, they could not camp at the site and their demonstrations could only take place from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Occupy Philly rejected the proposal, setting the stage for a showdown.

The dismantling began about 1 a.m. and was preceded by three warnings from police that campers had to leave. That prompted some protesters to link arms and begin marching through downtown while chanting, "Get up, get down, there's revolution in this town," and "This is what a police state looks like."

Tensions peaked when marchers looped back to Dilworth Plaza, where they pushed through metal barricades erected by police trying to prevent them from reoccupying the site. Officers on bicycles and on horseback faced off with the protesters while workers dismantled the roughly 75 tents remaining and cleared the plaza of other personal items.

Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey said the raid was conducted overnight in hopes of preventing major disruptions. "We want to try to minimize any conflict. So it just made sense to do it early in the morning, when the businesses are closed," he said.

-- Tina Susman in New York


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Photo: Mounted police in Philadelphia oversee the dismantling of Occupy Philly. Credit: Joseph
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Occupy Philly ignores eviction order, awaits police response

 Occupy philly

Dozens of Occupy Philly protesters remained in a park outside Philadelphia's City Hall on Monday after ignoring a Sunday evening deadline to leave, unsure whether police would enforce an eviction order and vowing to stand firm if they did.

Mayor Michael Nutter told protesters Friday that they had until 5 p.m. Sunday to pack up the tents and other creature comforts they have used while staying in Dilworth Plaza since the beginning of October, two weeks after Occupy Wall Street in New York prompted sympathizers to erect encampments in city centers across the nation. Occupy Wall Street was evicted in mid-November, and other Occupy camps have faced similar fates.

Occupy Philly had maintained a cordial relationship with Nutter until about 10 days ago, when the mayor said the group was blocking a $50-million renovation project planned for Dilworth Plaza by camping in the public park. At a news conference, Nutter accused the group of reneging on promises made early in the occupation to abide by city regulations and not disrupt the renovation.

He also pointed to a reported rape at the camp as evidence that crime was a growing problem for protesters as well as for other people in the area.

Relations soured further after Occupy Philly rejected the city's proposal that protesters move to nearby Thomas Paine Plaza. The offer would have allowed no overnight camping, limiting protests to the hours of 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The number of campers has dropped by about two-thirds since last week, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, with about 100 tents remaining overnight Sunday along with protesters who vowed to stay. The Philadelphia Daily News counted 87 tents.

"We are expecting people to pack up and leave," Mark McDonald, Nutter's spokesman, said, according to the Inquirer. "I'm not going to speculate about what the city might do at any time down the road from now."

Both reports quoted police as saying that there never were plans to raid the park and forcibly dismantle the camp, as occurred in New York recently. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, police were in a standoff with Occupy L.A., whose campers were resisting a deadline to move out of the park in front of City Hall by early Monday.

Since Occupy Wall Street's camp in Manhattan's Zuccotti Park was taken down, protesters in New York have tried to maintain momentum by gathering daily in the park and staging marches and protests.

Gwen Snyder, an Occupy Philly protester, said demonstrators in Philadelphia would meet later Monday to discuss their next steps, the Daily News reported. She suggested that those could include moving to a new site, taking over an abandoned building, or staging sudden "flash" occupations.

— Tina Susman in New York


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Photo: An Occupy Philly protester holds a sign after a Sunday evening deadline to clear the encampment passed. Credit: Jeff Fusco / Getty Images


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Rene Lynch has been an editor and writer in Metro, Sports, Business, Calendar and Food. @ReneLynch

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