More than 50 Occupy Atlanta protestors were arrested early Wednesday after refusing to leave Woodruff Park. Some had to be carried out.
A man, only identified as "Porch", walked through Woodruff Park with an assault rifle slung across his back.
ATLANTA -- Just hours after being released from jail Wednesday, many members of Occupy Atlanta movement spent the night at a homeless shelter Downtown. Their stay at the shelter at Peachtree and Pine was a show of support. The shelter is being threatened with having the water turned off for failing to pay $147,000 in water bills.
Organizers of Occupy Atlanta are planning their next move and say they have a new plan in place, which includes antagonizing Mayor Kasim Reed, retaking Woodruff Park and becoming a moving target.
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Occupy Atlanta plans to show up at public events that Reed will be at, to publicly decry his treatment of the movement. Members also say they they will retake Woodruff Park, despite threat of arrest. And they've said they will hold impromptu occupations throughout the city to make it harder for authorities to stop them.
At a community meeting in Centennial Olympic Park Wednesday night, protesters considered a number of options, including attempting to re-enter the park, confronting Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed at a scheduled speaking event, and using the Internet and social media to schedule impromptu occupations to draw attention to problems in corporate America and politics.
Early Wednesday morning, police moved into Woodruff Park and arrested the 52 protesters who had been encamped Downtown for about two weeks. Those arrested included Georgia State Sen. Vincent Fort.
Their charges included violating park hours.
Representatives from Occupy Atlanta told 11Alive News that none of those arrested had the opportunity to post bail before Wednesday morning and were told that the system to check criminal backgrounds was down. Occupy leaders said that some local attorneys were volunteering their time to help.
Most of the protesters were later granted a $100 signature bond. However, two were not granted bond becuase they had prior warrants from other jurisdictions -- one had a forgery charge from Texas, the other was held on a marijuana possession charge from Rockdale County.
Twenty-seven of the protesters said they did not have a home address. The judge said they would not be released until they provided an address.
A release from the mayor's office Wednesday morning said the park was cleared without incident. An email from the city Wednesday said the park remained closed as of 11:30 a.m., and that anyone in the park -- including members of the media -- would be arrested.
Before police moved in hours earlier, protesters were warned a couple times around midnight to vacate the park or risk arrest.
Inside the park, the warnings were drowned out by drumbeats and chants of "Our park!"
Organizers had instructed participants to be peaceful if arrests came, and most were. Many gathered in the center of the park, locking arms, and sang "We Shall Overcome," until police led them out, one-by-one to waiting buses. Some were dragged out while others left on foot, handcuffed with plastic ties.
Hundreds of others stood along Peachtree Street, booing police. They shouted "Shame!" and "Who do you protect? Who do you serve?"
By about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, most of the protestors had been cleared out.
State Sen. Vincent Fort had come to the park in support of the protesters in recent days. He said the police presence -- which included SWAT teams in riot gear, dozens of officers on motorcycles and several on horseback -- was "overkill."
"He's using all these resources," Fort said, referring to Mayor Reed. "This is the most peaceful place in Georgia. At the urging of the business community, he's moving people out. Shame on him."
Reed told reporters his security concerns increased Tuesday after a man was seen in the park with an assault rifle. He said authorities could not determine whether the weapon was loaded or not.
11Alive's Blayne Alexander spoke with the man, who called himself "Porch." He said he was an unemployed accountant, and that he did not agree with the views of the protesters, but said he wanted to protect the rights of the people to protest.
On Monday, Reed said he planned to revoke an earlier executive order allowing Occupy Atlanta protesters to stay in the park. However, he did not say when the move would happen.
Tensions between Occupy Atlanta and the mayor grew over the weekend when the protestors promoted an unpermitted hip hop festival at the park, despite contrary directives given to the group by city officials.
In a Monday afternoon news conference, Mayor Reed said the person responsible for security for the two-day festival quit last week due to issues of payment.
Reed added that advertisements for the concert, which aired on V-103 radio, said major hip hop performers, including Ludacris, were scheduled to appear at the venue. However, the mayor said, after speaking with Ludacris, he learned the musician had never planned to appear. The mayor said violence has erupted at concert venues where hip hop artists were promised and did not appear.
About 600 people showed up for Saturday's show.
With no city permit, Occupy Atlanta organizers tried to take over the event by telling vendors to set up, anyway.
"But y'all don't have a permit," one of the vendors shouted.
"We have an executive order for the whole park," said Tim Franzen with Occupy Atlanta. "We do whatever we want."
"The executive order permits Occupy Atlanta to remain in the park past 11 p.m.," Reed clarified Monday. "It does not exempt them from the fire codes or any other laws."
The mayor pointed out that in an attempt to prevent police from stopping the concert Saturday, members of Occupy Atlanta climbed onto and draped themselves over a generator.
"If that generator had caught fire or exploded, who would have been responsible?" Reed asked. "The City of Atlanta."
In a statement issued Monday night, Occupy Atlanta group members said: "The corruption of our political system by modern-day robber barons is the real clear and present danger. People are literally dying in the streets while the mayor's primary concern seems to be trying to end our attempt to shine a light on these problems."
Members of the mayor's staff were present during Wednesday's arrests.
As daylight broke, many of those who had not been arrested returned to Woodruff Park for a march down to Atlanta Municipal Court. The park itself was closed for maintenance.
While Atlanta's overnight arrests were largely peaceful, in Oakland, Calif., police shot tear gas in response to rock throwing from some of the demonstrators who had gathered there, according to authorities.