By noon Monday, police had arrested at least six Occupy S.A. protesters, ending the remarkably calm and amicable relationship seen between city cops and protesters seen since the start of the local movement over two months ago.
The first three arrests arrests came just before 8 a.m. Monday, when a group of roughly a dozen protesters refused to leave a small, open adobe structure inside HemisFair Park near the foot of the Tower of the Americas, protesters said. “They gave us a 15 minute notice to gather up our property and move out,” said occupy member Joe Ballard. “They made sure we wouldn't have time to gather up all our stuff.
They keep saying they just need us to move here, or move there. Clearly they just want us out of the park.” Among those arrested Monday morning was Robin Canter, he said, a medic who's been with the local Occupy movement since its start on Oct. 6.
After moving protesters out of the small adobe structure, officers blocked off the surrounding area with police tape and started to cart off truckloads of any belongings that were left. Occupier Brian Turocy claims police grabbed his medication – an albuterol inhaler for asthma and Vicodin for pain from a recent surgery – and refused to give it back, saying he didn't have the right documentation. “They just said I couldn't prove I had a prescription, opened up the bottle, and dumped out the pills into the truck,” he said. Some occupiers said they had managed to reclaim some of their property, found in a dumpster near the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center next door.
By 11 a.m., two more occupiers were arrested for disobeying police orders, one of whom was jumping back and forth over the police line, “taunting the cops somewhat,” said protester Beverly Lerma. Shortly before noon, officers arrested Sharon Young near the police line, saying she too disobeyed orders to keep clear of the area (see last month's coverage "OccupySA prepares for the long haul,"
which includes a video interview with Young). A small band of occupiers continued to surround the taped-off area around mid-day Monday, screaming at officers, chanting, "The whole world is watching you." At one point, some recited the First Amendment.
Word of a pending police crackdown started to circulate last week when officers started handing out fliers with the section of city code banning camping in public, warning occupiers they'd soon face class C misdemeanor charges and a fine of up to $500 if they didn't stop making the park their “temporary living quarters.” Matthew Lee, another occupier at the park Monday, said police effectively shuffled the group away from their de-facto headquarters at a gazebo near the entrance of HemisFair park by Friday, telling protesters they'd have to stay away until after a Celebrate San Antonio New Year's event scheduled for the HemisFair. Chains and "No Trespassing" signs now block the gazebo and building porches throughout the park where occupiers have stayed for over two months. The protesters briefly relocated to a spot near the park's playground, as requested by police, Friday before setting up shop in the small adobe building on Saturday, Lee said.
Reacting to the heightened police presence Monday, Lee said, “Right now, it's just a sense of betrayal . ... Up until yesterday, when [police] started harassing people, it was really cool. Everything was fine.”