Eight protesters were arrested Tuesday night while participating in Occupy Santa Barbara in De la Guerra Plaza for being in the area past the 10 p.m. curfew, the Santa Barbara Police Department confirmed Wednesday.
Video shot at the scene shows a crowd of Santa Barbara police officers asking people to leave the park — a raised island of grass surrounded by a street, City Hall and business buildings that is categorized as a city park — or risk being cited or arrested.
“I implore you, I’m going to give you one more opportunity to leave the park,” one sergeant is heard saying on the video after a police van pulls up.
The city administrator and city attorney’s offices directed police to take a “very measured response to enforce the existing municipal codes,” Sgt. Riley Harwood said.
Park closure times are specified as 10 p.m. to sunrise.
The city attorney’s office drafted warning notices that were distributed around 6 p.m. Tuesday, and 20 officers arrived at De la Guerra Plaza at 11:40 p.m.
Harwood said city administrators were concerned about long-term camping, sanitation and other damaging effects to the park, and determined it would be best to enforce the municipal codes.
“It’s important to apply the municipal code fairly and evenly to everyone,” he said.
Eight people refused to leave the park, including one woman who received a citation but then ripped it up, apparently changing her mind, according to Harwood. He said everyone was given the option to leave, get a citation or be arrested and booked at the County Jail on a misdemeanor charge.
“There was kind of a core contingency, so to speak, of folks remaining in the park,” Harwood said. “They kind of wanted to do that as part of their civil disobedience and getting the message out.”
The video shows officers holding dozens of plastic zip ties, now familiar to anyone who has seen pictures or footage of the mass arrests of the Occupy Wall Street movement when protesters tried to march across the Brooklyn Bridge.
Protesters shouted in support of the First Amendment right to peacefully assemble.
“One hundred and fifty cities and no cops have stopped it. You’re going to be the first ones!” someone shouted.
Several protesters had their hands bound and were taken to the police van, while others merely stepped off the grass, crossed the street and stood on the public sidewalk. Two people chained themselves to objects, and the Santa Barbara City Fire Department had to use the Jaws of Life to disable one of the chains, police said.
Arrested were Mariah Klusmire, 21; Randy Ramirez, 24; Annmarie Telfer, 24; Alex Chabbott, 31; Keith Keiper, 23; Edward Glenwright,21; Robert Villegas, 27; and Angelina Ward, 18. They were all booked into jail with bail set at $2,500 for each of them.
Testimony of Occupy Santa Barbara observers, filmed a few hours after the arrests, played on a loop on the group’s website Wednesday morning.
The police “tried to retake the park, but we didn’t peacefully get out of their way,” they said, adding that it’s a nonviolent movement, so protesters tried to engage the police in conversation and didn’t move until officers started approaching people.
The 20 officers and two supervisors sent to the event weren’t part of the department’s standard patrol force, according to Harwood. He said the large force was sent because the department didn’t know how “volatile” the situation would be.
There was no enforcement Monday night, the first night of Occupy Santa Barbara, and there may not be any again Wednesday night. The department plans to monitor the situation and then make a decision whether to respond at all.
After arrests Tuesday night, officers left in three phases, with a handful of them staying in the park for a short time. Some gathered up abandoned property, including signs and a plastic chair one man sat in while chained to a flagpole. Or, as one observing protester put it, “They just took s***.”
Meanwhile, some protesters stayed on the public sidewalks and watched, filmed and periodically chanted.
Occupy Santa Barbara continues with general assembly meetings every day at 12:30 and 5 p.m., and the group plans to march Saturday in solidarity with those arrested both locally and in the Occupy Wall Street movement.