Occupy West Palm Beach protestors refuse again to leave downtown encampment

— About a dozen Occupy Palm Beach County protesters this morning declined appeals that they leave their encampment at the old City Hall site at North Olive Avenue and Banyan Boulevard.

"We will stay as long as it takes," said Brien Huley, a 45-year-old West Palm Beach resident. "We're standing up for our own freedom of speech and freedom to assemble. Those aren't things you're supposed to require permission from anyone."

The group's remarks were intended for Mayor Jeri Muoio, who was not present.

In a statement to Muoio, the protestors said, "The mayor should be encouraging this exercise in participatory democracy, which is in the very best tradition of the American people."

The demonstrators are part of a nationwide movement demanding reforms in banking, housing and corporate regulations. Late last month, they were issued a notice of closing the encampment, the third site the group has occupied in West Palm Beach since late October.

Police visited the site at 9 a.m., 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturday to warn demonstrators to leave and are scheduled to do the same today.

A small group of protestors early today moved their tents to the roof of the building's second story.

"It'll be harder to arrest us from here," said John, a 47-year-old Lake Park man who declined to give his last name.

The notice to close the encampment was issued by Ed Mitchell, West Palm Beach city administrator. The Occupy group has had a camp of tents since December. West Palm Beach officials originally gave the Occupy protesters a Thursday deadline to leave, but they remained.

"We will not leave voluntarily. If we have to go to jail, that's not a too big price to pay for getting people to understand their rights," Huely said Saturday.

John of Lake Park said the group's cause is just.

"This country is broke and I don't mean broke financially," he said. "It's broke politically and it's getting worse by the day. As long as America keeps pumping out poor people, this movement will continue to grow."

The city blames the demonstrators for at least 16 incidents at the site, ranging from disorderly conduct to drug possession to open-container violations. Since Dec. 11, the city has provided protesters with electricity nightly at the old City Hall site as well as keys to nearby bathrooms.

City officials have not given a date when the protestors must leave the city-owned property.


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