Tom Chapman: City Hall Stuck Between Extremes – November 16, 2011

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

From: Tom Chapman

Date: November 8, 2011

Subject: Encampment at City Hall

Mayor and Council,

Currently we are continuing to monitor the encampment at City Hall. I met with some of the organizers this morning and expressed my concern about the health and safety issues within the encampment and the blocking of access to City Hall.

We will continue to enforce the municipal code as appropriate. I have asked for Environmental Health to do a site inspection at City Hall. At this point they have refused. The City Manager will be speaking with the CAO to try to facilitate the inspection.

It remains to be seen what impact the Eureka enforcement will have on Arcata. A couple of our more extreme protestors went to Eureka to “help.” I saw them over there last night and again this morning.

As you are probably aware, there is a lot of frustration with the encampment. It is very important to balance out free speech and assembly with minor violations of law.

This area of law has many shades of gray. As I wrote in a previous e-mail, the first amendment is not absolute. The government can place reasonable restrictions on time, place, and manner.

But, as you know the attempt to limit free speech is very contentious. Some people are very passionate about it and view it as an absolute right. Others believe the rule of law outweighs the freedom of speech and assembly. They are also very passionate about it and view enforcement as the only course of action.

Stuck in the middle of these two extreme views are all of us. Trying our best to provide for all 17,000 community members but spending a disproportionate amount of time on a handful.

We are trying very hard to have a balanced approach that does not interfere with civil liberties but also maintains public order, public safety, and public health.

While this is not a substantive update, hopefully there is a better understanding of the difficult position we have before us. I will update when I have more information.

Tom Chapman, Chief of Police

Arcata Police Department

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