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OccupyPetaluma Will Test to What Extent City, Activists Can Find Common Ground

Group says they want to be very respectful, including to downtown merchants, but will proceed with event even if not granted a permit

Do you need a permit to exercise your First Amendment rights?

With just three days left to apply for and secure permission to legally protest at Penry Park, some members of the OccupyPetaluma movement are asking themselves this very question.

The rally, scheduled for noon on Saturday, is aimed at expressing anger at the high rate of foreclosures, unemployment and general economic stagnation, but it may very well be a springboard for a different kind of discussion.

Can protestors camp out at parks after closing time? Can they “occupy” a park even if they fail to obtain the proper permits? And can the city make them pay for police overtime, Porta-Potties and private security even as the organizers have vowed to provide their own services through a network of residents who live nearby?

Under Petaluma’s municipal code, any group that plans to have a gathering of 20 or more people at a city park needs a permit and must apply for it at least 20 days prior to the event. But Occupy organizers have yet to turn in their permit application, to the chagrin of city officials and the police.

“We have explained that…they will need a permit, otherwise their demonstration in that particular location would not be allowed and they would be subject to citation and/or arrest and all the things that go along with it,” said Interim Police Chief Dan Fish.

Fish said that it typically takes time for a permit application to be reviewed by the city before a response can be given.

“We don’t normally get them last minute and in fact, when we do, we deny them based on the fact that people didn’t give us enough time to respond,” Fish said.

But if the group applies for a parks permit, it may have more leniency, said Councilman Mike Healy, an attorney.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if the city would grant them a permit given the unusual circumstances of the situation,” Healy said. “Typically, the police are concerned about street closures, like during races, and I haven’t heard anything that involves that.”

Tim Nonn, a de-facto spokesman for the grassroots movement, said the group would apply for a parks permit first thing Wednesday, but said it would still hold the protest even if the city didn’t grant it one.

“The city parks permit is not designed for our purposes and wasn’t written for something like this in mind, something that would go on for days,” said Nonn, a 57-year-old Petaluma author and activist who has a doctorate in ethics. “It’s a balancing act between our right under the First Amendment to assembly and the permitting requirement and being a good and responsible citizen. So everyone has to be creative.”

In thinking about his group’s quandary, Nonn invoked Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic march from Selma, Alabama to push the state to allow Blacks to vote. The Alabama governor had refused to grant protesters a permit to march, but hundreds of people still gathered only to be confronted by state troopers who beat them.

The march was later completed under federal protection, resulting in a passage of the Voting Rights Act, which opened Southern polling places to blacks.

“If a permitting process is being used by a municipality to deny people their basic rights, then it’s the duty of citizens to challenge that,” Nonn said, adding that the group was talking with both the City Council and police and planning on a low-key and peaceful event.

“My hope is that we can cooperate because it’s in our mutual interest,” he said. “There are going to be small numbers to start with and we’ll be on the sidewalk. It’s not like there is going to be 500 people in the park.”

But the rally has been getting a lot of traction online and could be flooded with angry residents, activists advocating for various causes, as well as observers curious to see what happens.

City leaders are hoping that the rally will not result in confrontations, arrests or tear gassing of participants, as has occurred at OccupyOakland in recent days.

“I hope we’re not setting up a situation of civil disobedience because the city does not need to deal with something like that,” Healy said.

But even if local authorities don’t push protestors out of the park at night, something much more simple may: Every morning at 4 o'clock, the sprinklers are timed to turn on, making it a little less comfortable to camp out.

Should the OccupyPetaluma rally proceed even without a permit? Are you planning on being there? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Joe Maisel October 28, 2011 at 03:32 AM
I can assure we that we are working with the city and the relationship has been completely the opposite of adversarial. I believe that those of us involved in organizing this love this town, the community, and feel very fortunate to be living here. I'm not speaking for anyone else, but I'm, well, 99% sure that's the case. :) I can assure you Phillip that there are people involved in OP from all walks of life. Veterans. Old folks. Young folks. Middle aged Jewish computer programmers. ;) I am not a list of adjectives Phillip. I'm a person. So are all of us. I hope you'll come by and meet us. I'd love to discuss what being an Occupier means to me. If you keep an open mind you may find yourself surprised by who we are and what we value. I hope you'll give yourself that chance.
Joe Maisel October 28, 2011 at 03:34 AM
Phillip.... A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject. Winston Churchill See, we already have something in common! :)
Joe Maisel October 28, 2011 at 03:36 AM
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; ****or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.****
Joe Maisel October 28, 2011 at 03:43 AM
SP I believe most of us are going to or have moved our money to Credit Unions. I have several accounts at Wells and B of A and I'm moving them all. Credit Unions are everything banks aren't. Honest, community driven non profit who reinvest in the community. I hope you'll give us a chance to show you that we will be an asset to the city. But that can only happen *if* you're willing to get to know us. If you live in the neighborhood (as I do) then come over and talk with us. We'd love to meet you. And I agree with Phillip. If there's trouble it will be from the drunk folks leaving the bars on the weekends. I have to endure listening to them and seeing them "do they're thing" on the street every friday and saturday night.
John Cheney October 28, 2011 at 03:58 AM
John Cheney Occupy Petaluma is: Not Here To Destroy Capitalism, But To Remind Us Who can Saved It We will handle security ourselves, we have the toilet taken care of and the city is charging the movement a minimum of $100 a day to use the park So stop bitching and come out and donate a dollar or two for the city. Let ’s show the rest of the world Petaluma can do it better at no cost to the city. Keep filling those pot holes
Go Occupy! October 28, 2011 at 04:01 AM
Well viewers, as tonite's episode draws to a close we discover that the dilemma over who will pay for security and sanitation has been revealed. In a last minute change of heart, George Soros will keep his powder dry for the Obama reelection campaign and not be funding Petaluma's OccupyWall Street protest. From what this reporter gleaned from reading the article above, it will be none other than the OccupyPetaluma group who takes care of that. A quick note is that it was already common knowledge prior to the sleuthing that took place tonite. Come on Bucky, let's go home. Again, word of the day: EMPATHY
Joe Maisel October 28, 2011 at 04:08 AM
Phillip! Now that I've read what you're going through I really hope you'll come down and meet us! I believe in America, and I can promise you no one *ever* gave me any handouts.
Joe Maisel October 28, 2011 at 04:16 AM
Shut down the Fed. No more bank bailouts. Stop manipulating markets. Remove the money from politics. Stop socializing losses and privatizing gains. I'll take those for starters.
Roy Bean October 28, 2011 at 04:20 AM
Great dialog over the last couple of days. I thank you for joining me in a spirited debate. We have all made good and bad points, but at the end of the day we are all just trying to get by. Lets make sure we all do our part to Take Care of Petaluma and not defile her in any way. GOOD NIGHT NOW!!
Roy Bean October 28, 2011 at 04:22 AM
99% of Americans do not agree on anything, we are not talking about taxes we are talking about our point of view.9-9-9!!
Joe Maisel October 28, 2011 at 05:20 AM
You want information? OK! Here's some charts from the hippies at businessinsider.com ;) http://www.businessinsider.com/what-wall-street-protesters-are-so-angry-about-2011-10?op=1#ixzz1ac2ixDPf And a ton of articles. I just spent like an hour digging all this up, so I sincerely hope you'll take at least that much time to read them. :) http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2011/10/25/353359/cbo-income-one-percent-explode/ http://thinkprogress.org/special/2011/10/21/350172/graph-147-companies-control-40-percent-of-global-transnational-corporate-wealth/ http://thinkprogress.org/special/2011/10/17/345472/veteran-protests-police-tactics-nyc/ http://thinkprogress.org/special/2011/10/05/337149/meet-99-percent-tx-protester/
Joe Maisel October 28, 2011 at 05:24 AM
I have no problem with rich folks. I've known a couple of *very* rich folks in my life. But making money by creating or inventing something is different than gaming the system. Heck, making money by investing like Warren Buffet is fine by me too. What's not fine is taking more and more in ways that are increasingly deceptive, manipulating the markets so you make money on the way up and the way down, insider trading, and any and all other forms of dishonesty. That's what I believe most of us are upset about.
basingate October 28, 2011 at 05:58 PM
http://californiacommons.blogs.pressdemocrat.com/11598/occupy-basin-street/ >>The North Bay Bohemian has published reports by Peter Byrne about Basin Street Properties together with its self-proclaimed alter-ego and largest single investor, John Barella. The first, “Basin Street Blues,” investigated “shady dealings behind Petaluma’s Theatre District and the nearly $10 million bill left to the city.” His most recent report, “BasinGate,” informs us that “an extra $454,481 goes missing from Petaluma’s Theatre District development.” As previously expressed in this column, a formal investigation of the Petaluma Theatre District situation should be undertaken. When Occupy Petaluma adopts its principles and priorities, this is a local corporate conduct issue which merits their attention.<< http://www.bohemian.com/bohemian/10.05.11/news-1140.html#
John Cheney October 28, 2011 at 09:54 PM
John Cheney I said years ago Petaluma need to be renamed Whitesvile. This investigation is way over do, See you Saturday, I will be a big guy in a Vets hat.
Go Occupy! October 29, 2011 at 12:05 AM
"We have all made good and bad points" A quick review shows that I made no bad points, thank you. Have you figured out that you are part of the 99% yet? It's not a bad thing really, it's just a dividing line and actually, 99% of Americans can agree about that. They (1%ers) have all the money, and you don't, so you are part of the 99%. If you really lost your job and home like you said Philip, face facts, you are part of the 99%.
Go Occupy! October 29, 2011 at 12:07 AM
Hey, I just read that they got the permit!!! Aren't you happy??
Frank Simpson October 29, 2011 at 01:21 AM
I can also add that the Occupy Petaluma people have worked closely with the City in securing the permit.
SP October 29, 2011 at 03:55 AM
I agree with all hings said about Whitesville and Basin and thing yet uncovered. Just remember that nobody else stepped up to redevelop downtown .... And we all enjoy downtown.
Go Occupy! October 29, 2011 at 12:37 PM
For those of you saying that this protest means nothing, waste of time, hippies, Marxists, and blah, blah, blah.... I offer proof that this silly little experiment called protest does, in fact, work. The article goes on to say that BofA is dropping the $5 fee but will continue to weasel in other ways. Weaselbank, that's got a good ring to it. "By Associated Press, Published: October 28 NEW YORK — Chase and Wells Fargo are joining the list of banks that won’t be charging customers to use their debit cards, as the backlash over Bank of America’s planned $5 monthly fee continues."
Go Occupy! October 29, 2011 at 09:56 PM
So, steve/phillip/roy... You can't open your mouth without something foul coming out, eh? What we have learned from when you write, is that you pretty much don't know what you are talking about, and, you have a tendency to lie a lot. You didn't actually lose your home and job like you said in that post that is now gone, did you? That is pretty lame. There are actually millions of suffering people out of work and you are making fun of them? Shame on you.
Roy Bean October 29, 2011 at 10:05 PM
Throughout history, there have been human beings who did not want to compete in the marketplace. That sentiment drives a hatred of capitalism. The American economic system is a meritocracy. If you work hard and do well in your job, you usually will prosper providing you practice patience. If you don't work hard and smart, you will be out on your keister -- unless a union saves you. Some believe this survival-of-the-fittest system is unfair because all people are not born with equal aptitude. And that's true. Capitalism is not fair to everyone. But it gives the largest number of folks the best chance to succeed because there are many different routes to prosperity and some disinterested bureaucrat isn't standing around calling the economic shots. But the Occupy Wall Street protesters want those bureaucrats. They believe governments have a moral obligation to provide a measure of success and education to everyone, no matter the cost. This, of course, is impossible. I respect dissent, but not stupidity. Do these anti-capitalists ever read a newspaper or a history book? Greece and other European countries are collapsing under entitlement debt, and the entire world is suffering economically because of it.
Roy Bean October 29, 2011 at 10:10 PM
Not 99% Sparkles. "A survey taken at the protest site in New York City tells quite another story. Pollster Doug Schoen, who once worked for President Clinton, had his staff ask 200 protesters to define themselves. -- Just 15 percent are unemployed. -- Most voted for Barack Obama in 2008, but now only 44 percent approve of the job the president is doing. -- Fifty-two percent have participated in political demonstrations before. -- Thirty-one percent say they would support violence to advance their agenda. And what is that agenda? Schoen writes: "The protesters have a distinct ideology and are bound by a deep commitment to radical left-wing policies. ... (The movement) comprises an unrepresentative segment of the electorate that believes in the radical redistribution of wealth..."
Roy Bean October 29, 2011 at 10:20 PM
You will be a big racist in a vets hat. "Whitesville", REALLY??? What would you rename Oakland or Stockton??
Roy Bean October 29, 2011 at 10:21 PM
Most human beings are built to better themselves, not to throw their talents into a collective kitty.
Roy Bean October 29, 2011 at 10:37 PM
"The fee has provoked outrage from many Bank of America customers, and some have switched banks". -MSN. When you lose customers you adjust you business.
John Cheney October 29, 2011 at 11:32 PM
John Cheny Sorry, you took Whitesville the wrong way. It has nothing to do with race. Bill White was the owner of Basin Street Properties. It was a play on words from a Christmas Movie, Its A Wonderful Life like Potterville in the movie.
Goofpod October 30, 2011 at 08:20 AM
I invite every protestor who feels that our American Dream has let them down, that Wall Street has stolen their Gold, that the Federal Government isn't doing enough... Spend one summer (better yet, a winter!) with my in-laws in their humble flat in Tatarstan, Russia... See how they live and what their opportunities are... How their marketplace works (and doesn't)... How their central govermemt treats them. Good ol' American Capitalism may not be perfect, but additional perspectives from other parts of the planet sure make it far more comfy than most. Greed sucks, but big government is a worse enemy than rich capitalists. That, more than anything, limits opportunities to thrive in a free society.
Roy Bean October 30, 2011 at 08:44 AM
Never said I lost my home. I did lose 2 jobs over the last 4 years. The first due to my office went out of business and the other due to lack of work. The same for my wife's employment. It is pretty sad that you can not face the facts(see survey by D.Schoen) you just seem to respond with delusional babblings. You should be ashamed of your self for the lies that you are trying to perpetuate through this site. But as we all know liberals do not know shame. I have figured you out sparkles so save your babblings for someone who cares. If you care sooo much for all the poor people then I suggest you start with yourself and give 50% of all you have to the government or a local charity. Until then you will not be able to respond with any sincerity or conviction in what you say you stand for....those who believe in a higher power give more of their OWN income, NOT the incomes of others. It is time to put up or shut up!
Someonewhowouldliketohaveapicnic November 28, 2011 at 07:55 PM
Ever heard of living within your means? Big truck, Big TV, Big mortgage. That doesn't sound like living within your means. He may be out there Saturday but I won't understand what it is he is protesting. He is protesting his right to get his big screen back? His gas guzzling big truck? How about he buy a used Honda Civic, go to the Goodwill and pick up a used TV, and buy a small house he can actually afford. Instead I won't be able to use the park as a picnic area and I do live within my means and pay my taxes.
Someonewhowouldliketohaveapicnic November 28, 2011 at 08:03 PM
You do not speak for me. I am a liberal and I believe in equality, freedoms, and rights. I do not believe in your movement. I do not watch Fox news and I can use my own judgement when it comes to thoughts on this movement. It is a movement that makes no sense. The movement comes across as people who want handouts and don't want to work for anything. I have anger at the government but I would never stand on the street corner and cry unfair unfair. Your movement is only going to make it harder for the liberals in this country. You will turn more people off than on because, at the end of the day, your movement is an annoyance for every day working people trying to make a living and take care of their families.

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