In Atlanta, around 50 protesters were arrested after Mayor Kasim Reed revoked his executive order allowing protesters to camp out in Woodruff Park, and police tried to clear them out. In Baltimore, protesters were enraged after city officials declared Wednesday that overnight camping is now illegal at the downtown McKeldin Square.
Both groups say they will fight for their right to occupy the public spaces they have been camping out in for weeks.
Occupy Atlanta protesters said they would return to the park in the morning, when it would be legal for them to be there.
Protesters in Baltimore said police were trying to force a confrontation by kicking them out, and that they were ready for it.
In New York, the Occupy Wall Street movement has for weeks brought up questions about how tightly police can regulate Zuccotti Park, a privately owned public space. As the Nation’s Francis Reynolds points out, “Zuccotti isn’t a public park with all the free speech protections that come with public property.”
But it’s a different story in Atlanta and Baltimore, where Woodruff Park and McKeldin Square are both fully public spaces.
Woodruff Park is a well-known public space in Atlanta, filled with fountains, a performance pavilion and several monuments. Interestingly, it is named after Robert Woodruff, a former Coca-Cola president who was undoubtedly a member of the “one percent.”
McKeldin Square in Baltimore, also a public space, is part of the city’s famous Inner Harbor, and is the past site of many a health and cultural festival.
Protesters in public spaces should legally have more freedom than those occupying a public-private space like Zuccotti Park. But police have in recent weeks dredged up several not often used public space laws and municipal ordinances to get protesters out.
These include anti-sleeping laws, bans on personal belongings in public space, bans against using open flames, bans again umbrellas (being used as tents), and laws against obstructing pedestrian traffic.