Early this morning only one occupier remained in the plaza in front of City Hall, as part of the Occupy San Jose protest. That's because city officials have systematically arrested every single person who peacefully protested there and refused to comply with evacuation orders.
Through the arrests and raids, city officials have violated the protestors constitutionally-protected right to free speech. The one person left at camp this morning is Shaun O'Kelly, 27, who scaled a three story wall at City Hall in a final, dramatic appeal to police and city officials.
The plaza in front of City Hall has particular regulations, and overnight occupiers are being charged with violating City Ordinance MC 13.23.300 (H). But the city has on at least one other occasion allowed people to "occupy" the City Hall Plaza when officials have been in agreement with the content of the protestors' speech. This was the case for the Vietnamese protesters who occupied City Hall Plaza for over a month in 2008. In this case, possibly because the city was threatened by the content of the speech at Occupy San Jose, the city has chosen to selectively enforce the ordinance. The City Ordinance does have a free speech assembly provision that allows protestors to obtain a permit. However, the city is choosing to interpret that provision in such a way so as to not allow the permit to be issued for "camping." Occupy San Jose believes the City Ordinance is unconstitutional, and that our free speech rights are being violated on a daily basis.
Faced with a global economic crisis, people across the world are petitioning their governments by demonstrating in public squares, parks and plazas. San Jose's plaza in front of City Hall should belong to the people of San Jose, not the state government. We are asking the city to do the right thing, and respect our rights to peacefully assemble and petition our government.
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