Mayor working to find Occupy Atlanta solution

Updated:

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed's office says he will determine the next step once his executive order allowing the Occupy Atlanta protestors to stay in Woodruff Park expires Monday night.  That order gives demonstrators the ability to remain in the downtown park after 11 p.m.  Under that order, protestors must remove their tents by 5 p.m. Monday and vacate the park by 11 p.m.  The office said earlier Friday that the expiration of that order was never meant to be a hard deadline, but added once that time comes, Mayor Reed will reevaluate the situation and make his final determination. 

This comes after Occupy Atlanta's leader, Tim Franzen, told Channel 2's Richard Elliot that they had no plans to leave the park by 11 p.m. Monday.

 "We will be ready for non-violent civil disobedience," said Franzen.  "We have commitments from specific civil rights leaders to stand here with us, to sit down and link arms, and to be dragged off and sent to jail if that's what the mayor wants."

The city hopes to avoid the kind of violent confrontations seen in New York  City where police officers and demonstrators clashed in the streets in full view of cameras.  NYPD officers and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg came under criticism for their handling of the situation.

Franzen told Elliot he believed Monday was a hard deadline and was determined to remain in the park past it.  Still, he invited Mayor Reed to come down and talk with the demonstrators.

 "We'd love to have his support," he said.  "We'd love to have his endorsement.  We think the voices that we're trying to lift up are the voices of his constituents."

The group marched Friday evening from the park to a homeless shelter on Peachtree and Pine streets, blocking traffic on the downtown streets.

Some of Occupy Atlanta's neighbors are also growing frustrated with the demonstrations, and told Elliot they would like to see the city move in and shut them down.

 "It's really annoying," said Katelyn Caccavale, who lives across the street from Woodruff Park.  "Our walls are paper thin, so every night, we hear them screaming and yelling and banging their bongos."

 Maryam Ahmed works downtown and said she supports the protests and the mayor's decision not to move in.

 "I'm glad they're out here," she said.  "I believe in the movement all across America."

 No word when the mayor will make a decision whether to extend that executive order to allow the protestors to remain.

As Occupy Atlanta's occupation of Woodruff Park enters its second week, no one is exactly sure how much the demonstrations are costing Atlanta's taxpayers, though APD admits it is costing something.

In an emailed received by Elliot, Atlanta Police spokesman Carlos Campos said it was just too early to tell the exact expenditures.  But he confirmed it is costing taxpayers some money.

"There is no question that providing police presence to properly ensure public safety surrounding the Occupy Atlanta movement requires an increased expenditure of resources and funding," said Campos.

 But Campos went on to say Atlanta Police are well equipped to handle this demonstration, because it has a lot of experience handling large scale events.

 "The Atlanta Police Department routinely handles large-scale events, much larger in fact, than these protests," he said. 

"On any given weekend, there are hundreds of thousands of people in the city of Atlanta for professional and collegiate sports, trade shows, conventions, festivals, and cultural and artistic events.  Before any event that requires additional APD presence, the department evaluates the resources required for the event and for city-wide coverage.  The department is performing this same evaluation regarding Occupy Atlanta and planning ahead for the indefinite duration of the protest."

 Campos also ensured that APD will continue to provide for public safety across the rest of the city.


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