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3 arrested after police raid Occupy Riverside

November 30, 2011 | 10:14 am

Occupy Riverside
Three people were arrested on charges of obstructing an officer during an otherwise peaceful police raid after authorities asked Occupy Riverside protesters to clear their tents out of the pedestrian mall near City Hall early Wednesday morning.

City officials said the encampment was becoming a nuisance as the number of occupiers swelled. With between 70 to 90 people camped Wednesday, authorities said it was time to take action.

"They have a right to be here and demonstrate, they just don’t have a right to bring tents," said Riverside Police Lt. Guy Toussaint. "It’s a public place. If they want to stand there all night long, its not a problem."

More than 100 officers were deployed to the corner of 9th Street and University Avenue around 6 a.m. Wednesday, but authorities said most people were cooperative and "moved without a problem.” No force was used, authorities said.   

Now, only about 20 protesters remain at the tent-free site.

But some, like Riverside resident Jose Soto, bristled at the police action.

"I believe in a person’s freedom of speech," Soto, 36, said. "This is proof there is not freedom of speech."

Mayia Schulga, a UC Riverside political science graduate student, said she has been at the camp for six weeks and called city leaders “inattentive.”

“The city leaders have failed to grasp the purpose of the movement –- economic justice and the destruction of people's lives,” she said.  

Riverside Mayor Ronald O. Loveridge, who was a political science professor at UC Riverside, said the city welcomes ideas.

“That’s what our democracy is about,” he said. “But you’ve got to follow the rules and the rules are no tents, no camping, in city parks.”

Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz said his department did not time its action with the raid on the Occupy L.A. camp that took place just hours before Riverside officers moved in. He reiterated that aside from a few shouting matches, and a handful of campers who tried to move their tents down the street, the operation went smoothly.

Authorities said police have a “maintenance plan” in place, and will retain a presence at the site for an unspecified length of time.

Police arrested 11 protesters on Nov. 6, but later that day tents sprung up in the mall again.


Occupy L.A.: More than 200 arrested in peaceful sweep

Occupy L.A. protesters regroup, try to figure out what’s next

Occupy L.A. protesters gone but their belongings, debris remain

-- Phil Willon in Riverside and Matt Stevens in Los Angeles     

Photo: Police ask Occupy Riverside protesters to leave. Credit: Phil Willon / Los Angeles Times