People participating in Occupy Raleigh have been confined to a narrow strip of sidewalk on the south side of the Capitol building in downtown Raleigh since the start of their occupation on Oct. 15. They are on the sidewalk because North Carolina's Department of Administration has twice denied their application for an extended use permit for the Capitol grounds. Police monitor the protestors around the clock, seeking to block anyone with protest signs from entering the Capitol grounds. The State has not adequately defended its denial of Occupy Raleigh’s request, and we believe it's because it seeks to stop the Occupy movement from growing in Raleigh.
On Thursday, October 27, State Capitol Police informed Occupy Raleigh that participants had to pack up all the supplies they needed to continue the Occupation, including water and blankets. Occupiers complied with the order even though their supplies were consolidated on one side of the sidewalk and they had left ample room for public use of the sidewalk. After all supplies were removed, two individuals remained on camping chairs at the edge of the sidewalk, one of whom was an older woman with a documented disability who needed to remain seated. Even as she held a sign identifying herself as a handicapped person and explained to police that her disability prevented her from standing for more than short periods, police arrested her along with several supporters who sat in a circle surrounding her in protest of the police action.
The continued denial of peaceful assembly permits and the most recent police actions against Occupy Raleigh show that the movement is under attack. Occupiers cannot sustain the occupation under threat of arrest for sitting and without necessary supplies like water, food, blankets and first aid kits.
Without the continuous, popular pressure on political representatives that a prolonged assembly provides, we believe positive political and economic change is very unlikely. Occupy Raleigh simply wishes for a comfortable public area where they can assemble to discuss political and economic ideas amongst themselves and draw greater public attention to their cause.
It is impossible to imagine a more wholesome, enlightened, and appropriate use of this important civic space in the heart of Raleigh. Please sign our petition calling on State officials to reverse their current stance of arresting protesters, recognize our right to demonstrate, provide a mutually acceptable Occupation location around the Capitol building, and drop trespassing and trumped-up resisting arrest charges against those who were exercising their rights to free speech on October 15 and October 27.