WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Members of Occupy Wilmington have gone from the streets to the steps of City Hall and, as recently as yesterday, behind bars. Shelby Lentz, 16, was arrested after police ordered the group off of the City Hall lawn. Other occupiers say they just want their rights back.
Some members of Occupy Wilmington have spent the past couple of weeks trying to get their camping equipment back on the lawn at City Hall. Monday their lawyer received notice that their request for a permit was denied by the city. Now the group is looking into its options.
“We can appeal to City Council, and maybe they will pass a motion allowing us to encamp on City Hall lawn. Several cities have done that for their occupations,” Occupy Wilmington member Denny Best said.
Best has been part of Occupy Wilmington since its inception. He says he is in charge of the group’s effort to get a permit to sleep on the City Hall lawn. He says all options are open, including possibly getting an injunction against the city.
The city says its decision was based on a current ordinance and multiple safety reasons.
“The facilities are not lighted. They aren’t manned 24/7. We’re really not set up to be equipped to ensure public safety at night, because the parks are not designed for that. They are designed for day-time use,” city spokeswoman Malissa Talbert said.
Early Monday morning members of the group were asked to leave the lawn after police found them sleeping there again. Police arrested Lentz when he refused to leave.
“They threatened to arrest anyone who did not leave, and I was the one who was vocal with my opinion and asked everyone, ‘Are we going to walk away?'” Lentz told WWAY last night. “That’s when they were not happy with me any longer, and I continued to ask them questions in a respectful manner, and they still wanted to escalate the situation to an arrest.”
Both Lentz and best believe that the city is taking away their constitutional right to assembly and free speech.
“We want to be able to be a visible presence in the city hall lawn 24/7, and without the ability to camp, it’s almost impossible to do that,” Best said.
Occupy Wilmington will decide how they will combat the latest city restriction at its next General Assembly meeting.
The group’s next picket will be Thursday in Monkey Junction.