In the drizzle outside HemisFair Park Monday night, there were no chants of “Banks got bailed out! You got sold out!” among the Occupy San Antonio contingent, no “Whose park? Our park!” Instead, some in the fluctuating group of 10 to 20 protestors continuing to camp out at HemisFair quietly gathered blankets, pillows, tarps, flyers and computer equipment, packing personal belongings into a few nearby cars.
Since the beginning of Occupy San Antonio over two months ago, protesters have largely been in wait-and-see mode, enjoying an unusually calm and friendly relationship with local law enforcement even as billy clubs, handcuffs and pepper spray have become synonymous with Occupy in other cities across the country. But with warnings from park police Monday, and apparent threats of a crackdown over the city's no-camping-in-public ordinance, HemisFair occupiers worry they may be falling out of the city's good graces.
Meghan Owen, a central player in Occupy San Antonio since the movement's start in early October, said park police began passing out copies of the section of city code banning camping in public Monday afternoon, warning occupiers they'll face class C misdemeanor charges and a fine of up to $500 if they don't stop living at the park. “They told us they were going to start actively citing people, that they've been really nice to us up to this point but that they can't have people living here,” Owen said. She also claimed Park Police have started to drop hints of another plan: to clear HemisFair by the end of the year. “They have told us that this will be shut down by January 1st.
They've told us more than once that New Years is our eviction date,” she said.
Police spokeswoman Sandy Gutierrez said Park Police Commander Steve Baum stopped by HemisFair Monday to tell protesters “that while their presence is not a violation, because there is no curfew at the park.
what is in violation is the temporary structures, the tents, all the camping, if you will.” And the message to occupiers yesterday was nothing new, she said. “[Park Police] have had discussions with them throughout this entire process,” she said. “The reason why this again came up is because there just became a public safety and health issue," she said, claiming officers had started to notice large amounts of trash and some drug paraphernalia around HemisFair.
And despite fears inside Occupy San Antonio over a January 1st eviction date, Gutierrez insisted police haven't set one. “There wasn't a timeline that was given,” she said.
For now, occupiers at HemisFair say they're intent on holding onto the park and won't give up their round-the-clock occupation anytime soon (See last month's coverage "OccupySA prepares for the long haul
"). Said one protestor, who wished to only be identified as "Frost": “This park is central. It's very important that we have a 24/7 presence, and this really seems like the best place to do it.” At its general assembly meeting Monday night, the group decided they'd stop sleeping in the park, instead taking shifts to stay awake and keep HemisFair covered day and night, Owen said.
-- By Michael Barajas, email@example.com