City Serves Notice On Occupy Arcata – November 16, 2011

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Note: This letter was delivered to Occupy Arcata this afternoon, Nov. 16, 2011. – Ed. 

November 16, 2011

Members of Occupy Arcata:

As a follow up from my visit yesterday with some members of Occupy Arcata who were present, I am drafting this letter to ensure all members have the same information.

On October 28, Occupy Arcata moved its protest from the Plaza to the front lawn of City Hall. As you have seen firsthand the protest has attracted a divergent group. As we saw with the protest on the Plaza, some people have taken advantage of Occupy Arcata to engage in illicit activity. This conduct has continued at City Hall despite the close proximity to the police department, regular police walkthroughs, and assurances from Occupy Arcata members of tighter control over unruly behavior.

Specific acts include the open use of drugs, the sales of drugs, consumption of alcohol, public intoxication, loose dogs, assault and battery, the illegal discharge of a BB gun, the shooting of a citizen with a BB gun, urination and defecation on public property, repeated smoking within 20 feet of the building, loud profane language in the presence of children visiting the recreation department, blocking disability access to City Hall, theft of property, and a disruption of City services.

Within five feet of the entrance to the recreation department the cement is saturated with urine. It has attracted flies and the stench is horrid. This entrance is used by many community members with their children to sign up for recreational programs the City sponsors. The encampment at City Hall has become a public health hazard.

I have been very clear with Occupy Arcata that the City of Arcata and our community support your constitutional rights and the rights of all people to peacefully and legally assemble. Most importantly no one individual’s rights are more important than another’s.

Lodging on public property without a permit or permission and the placement of tarps, tents, and other structures interferes with other people’s right to freely use public space. Furthermore, this prolonged type of use has created public health concerns.

Currently, you are unable to properly dispose of wastewater and solid waste. Insufficient food handling safety and sanitation creates an environment ripe for an enteric disease outbreak. While I believe the members of Occupy Arcata assume some risk to enteric disease, I cannot allow the general public to assume risk nor can I allow City employees to assume risk.

The activities cited above are injurious to public health and safety and also are violations of the California Penal Code and Arcata Municipal Code which are in place to protect the health, welfare and safety of the community.

Part of the mission statement for the Arcata Police Department reads, “We are committed to protecting the constitutional rights of all.” It is my belief [that] the protection of our civil liberties is the responsibility of all citizens.

To that end, I am respectfully asking you to end the encampment portion of your protest. I strongly encourage you to continue to assemble at City Hall but without the use of tents, tarps, structures, and food preparation and storage; thereby creating a safe environment for all people to exercise their civil liberties.

I believe you can engage in your first amendment rights of assembly and freedom of speech without endangering public health and welfare, adversely impacting community members doing business at City Hall, or endangering the health and welfare of City employees.

Please take notice that should the public health and safety issues continue we will have to expend limited public resources to ensure the greater community health and welfare is protected.


Tom Chapman

Chief of Police

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6 Responses to “City Serves Notice On Occupy Arcata – November 16, 2011”

  1. Theresa

    Very clear, well documented concerns by Tom Chapman, Chief of Arcata Police! Your dept and the city of Arcata has gone above and beyond to accomodate, support and listen to the many voices of Occupy Arcata.
    Obviously there hasnt been a mutual balance of civic respect and I support your decision. It’s a 2 way street and unfortunately the behaviors of some have made it worse for others that really care and want to make a difference. Quite disappointing that it’s the actions of a few that impact the majority – I presume this to be true since I dont live in Arcata.
    Health hazards, safety issues, citizen’s rights to protection and following the laws are all impacted by what you cite.
    What are the alternatives for Occupy Arcata that could help sustain the true message of which it stands for?

  2. Rhonda

    It’s about time…Way to go Tom. Now just hope they oblige.

  3. Daniel Wasserman

    I have never disagreed that there is a disproportion of wealth and income between the very wealthy and the “99%” to which I belong. I have long wondered why it was we, the tax payer, have borne the burden of “bailing out” the failures of the wealthy corporations and there purposeful acts of malfeasance. I have long wished to see the common man and woman struggling to survive have their common welfare be the concern of our government. What I do not understand is how the delivery of the original message of the Occupy and 99% movements could have been co-opted in to a fecal and urine soaked rat crawled upon camp for drunks and criminals. It is not the message, it is the messenger and the way he speaks tat keeps the average American from joining hands with these causes. It is simply impossible for hard working persons to believe that the young adults that spend the day lounging about smoking, drinking and panhandling are members of the same cause. Kudos to Chief Tom Chapman for returning the City to the City-zens (sic).

  4. Catelyn S.

    I agree with Rhonda! Way to go Tom! Now if only the Eureka police chief could be this articulate.

  5. Diana Lubitz

    It is about time. This is a very well written letter and I couldn’t agree more with everything stated.

  6. John Wiesendanger

    Well written, somewhat compassionate, “A” for pro-active effort, tries to strike a balance but a little forceful – a bit like chemo when a scalpel would be more precise. I can imagine how the typical plaza transient element could migrate to the Occupy camp and ultimately result in the police taking harsh action against all who are trying to make a stand. But Arcata, specifically the Arcata police department have a once in a lifetime opportunity here, to stand with the people and be identified as friend not enforcer. Just good marketing and PR to say, we’ll be part of the occupation and we’ll police our own as a society, not as a force; don’t bring your tents, we’ll provide a shelter; don’t urinate on the grass, we’ll provide the port-a-potties; don’t worry about the grass, sod is relatively cheap. Sure it will cost a small amount in the grand scheme of things but it will buy solidarity and trust in Arcata to manage locally per our own collective ideals – not pepper spray the **** out of young kids. Surely everyone can see what’s happening behind the scenes, people are being labeled, memories are being etched deep. Hopefully this won’t devolve into a national strike or a “bank holiday” or devaluation of the dollar and rioting because if it does, people will resort to labels and bitter memories of who was on what side of the line.


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