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Occupy Fresno: More than 20 people arrested over the weekend

November 7, 2011 | 12:58 pm

The Occupy Fresno movement appears to be growing, despite arrests.
It wasn't evident by looking at Patch, a one-eyed homeless advocate, and his Chihuahua-mix dog Bandit, the lone guards of the Occupy Fresno camp on Monday morning, but after two nights of arrests by Fresno County sheriff's deputies, the movement appears to be growing.

While Patch and Bandit sat in front of a gazebo at Courthouse Park, surrounded by abandoned signs reading "Rage against the corporate machine," social media were buzzing with support for bigger overnight protests in the week ahead.

"Excuse me, is Occupy Fresno gone? They're still on Twitter," a college student asked Patch, who gives no other name.

"No, they're just taking showers and getting recharged. Everyone will be back tonight," he told him. "Police included."

When Occupy Fresno started a month ago, it didn't draw much attention. The city is home to a small, close-knit band of activists who've been protesting together since the days of the Vietnam War. Some are in their 70s. They were among the first to bring the national movement to Fresno.

They were joined by a handful of younger activists who started a social media campaign. The numbers started slowly growing, on some nights reaching more than 50. At the same time, the city started dismantling homeless encampments in the downtown area, with many of the displaced heading to the park where the members of Occupy Fresno would share food with them.

Patch became an overnight media spokesperson when he stood in front of a backhoe about to demolish his encampment. Soon he became Occupy Fresno's daytime guard.

"I occupy here because I have no other place to occupy. But these last couple of nights have done my heart good. To see people willing to be arrested. They're really concerned people, and they have the conviction of their hearts that they can change things."

Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims said the arrests will continue as long as the protests. "We will be there as long as it takes," she told local news crews. "There were too many complaints ... about the unsightliness of what was going on."

The first dozen arrests took place at 2:30 a.m. Sunday during a rainstorm. Deputies in riot gear roused more than a dozen sleeping protesters, who were cited and released. Deputies arrested eight more people about 1 a.m. Monday. All arrests were on charges related to an ordinance against overnight camping in the park.

But the arrests may have heightened awareness. Organizers said their numbers have doubled since Sunday night. They said they expect more than 200 protesters in the week ahead.

"There's an occupy Fresno?" read one Twitter message. "Where will you be tonight? I'll be there."

Patch doesn't have a mobile phone or access to a computer, but on Monday morning someone dropped off a bag of homegrown persimmons and told him he wouldn't be alone much longer.


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Photo: Patch and Bandit at the Occupy Fresno encampment after a night of the latest arrests. Credit: Diana Marcum / Los Angeles Times