The Occupy Palm Beach movement, currently consisting of around a dozen people camping out full-time, has moved into what it's calling a "permanent" occupation site at Banyan Boulevard and Flagler Drive in West Palm, just across from the Palm Harbor Marina.
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The spot is a triangular plot of land that's currently vacant, with space enough to hold hundreds of people if it should come to that. "It was offered to us by the city; apparently they have a strong commitment to First Amendment rights," says one organizer.
Early this week, city spokesman Chase Scott says, "We met with the people from Occupy Palm Beach and told them we wanted to protect their rights to have their voices heard."
Across the country, cities' opposition to their local Occupy movements has been growing. On Tuesday, police in Oakland, California, raided the local camp, evicting 400 people and firing tear gas into the crowd. After a heavy public backlash, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan backpedaled and said that peaceful protesters would be allowed to stay.
The feeling is different in West Palm Beach, at least for now. "I think most of us appreciate the sentiment that's being expressed," says Scott of his City Hall colleagues.
The plot of land occupied by the protesters is city-owned, and its location across the street from the yacht club puts occupiers close to the privileged wealth they often protest. Perhaps more important, they'll be visible in the high-traffic, central area.
Just down Clematis Street on Saturday, the city will hold its annual Moonfest Halloween party. An organizer says the group has reserved a table at the event for recruiting and spreading information.
"I wouldn't say it's permanent," says Scott of the new camp, but there's no end date on the legal occupation. Now that occupiers won't risk arrest for trespassing, they hope to recruit more people into their ranks.
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