'Occupy' protesters welcome decision by Santa Rosa

October 30, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
There's a new camp in the Bay Area, and Santa Rosa officials say they're allowing demonstrators to occupy the grounds in front of City Hall. About 30 tents on the lawn of City Hall is the latest expansion in the "Occupy" movement. Student Kyle LaRue says he's been a part of the "Occupy Santa Rosa" group for two weeks and is pretty happy about being able to pitch his camping tent on the lawn. "The news broke that the city was going to allow us to camp here basically until Nov. 1," LaRue said, "and this place went crazy." The decision was made to allow Occupy Santa Rosa to set up their tents on the lawn of City Hall. The city manager told ABC7 the decision was made to alleviate any unnecessary conflict. "It was best to avoid a so-called showdown," said Kathy Millison, city manager for Santa Rosa. "That was not in our interest." For city leaders, the encampment raises the usual concerns about the city codes surrounding cleanliness and safety. On the onset, the city required the group to have portable toilets on-site to meet some of those code requirements. The city's decision to allow tents over the weekend is an effort at working with the group to avoid anything close to the flare-up that happened last Tuesday in Oakland. During the next city council meeting, city leaders will consider how to officially handle the Occupy Santa Rosa movement and their tents because, at the moment, they are on the lawn without a permit. And they plan to be there indefinitely. "If somebody...comes out to a lawful assembly on public property, we are okay with that," said Santa Rosa Mayor Ernesto Olivares. "Any community should be okay with that kind of a gathering. It's the maintenance of safety, though, as you move forward, that you should have in mind." For observers, the encampment brings a national movement to the steps of their hometown. "I'd love to have universal health care," said Ron Tureck. "I know there's a lot of issues and whatnot that they're working on, but that's just a couple that are important to a lot of Americans (and) also to me." Even for some who support the overall idea, there remain some key questions. "They don't really know what they're trying to change," said resident James Harrison. "And who and how and why is all vague."

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