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County Says ‘Time To De-Occupy’ [AUDIO]

photo taken by Shande Wiest

In a letter directed toward the Occupy Missoula camp on the County Courthouse lawn, Missoula County Commissioners are making it clear that the campers are no longer welcome. here is the letter sent out this morning.

We have directed County staff to communicate with Occupy Missoula about their encampment since its inception in October. We have increased the frequency of our correspondence with them in the last two weeks in an effort to encourage them to remove their tents from the Courthouse lawn. Despite attempts from both our staff and many of the Occupiers to engage in constructive communication, the tents remain, as do the problems the tents present. As a result of Occupy Missoula’s unwillingness to help Missoula County solve the problems their camp presents, we are developing a policy that will prohibit camping on County property. The City of Missoula’s No Camping Ordinance does not apply to the Courthouse lawn. The County policy and the resulting ordinance are still being developed, but would require any group using the Courthouse lawn to secure a special use permit. Please do not mistake this policy as a means to limit free speech. Protests and demonstrations are still welcome on the Courthouse lawn, but sponsors of demonstrations that encourage prolonged use of the public space – a space we are charged with managing – must offer assurances that activities on County property will not jeopardize the health, welfare, and safety of the general public, or restrict the public’s rightful use of a public space.

We have removed the port-a-potty we have been providing from the Courthouse lawn in an effort to encourage the removal of their tents. We cannot continue to subsidize the Occupy camp with tax payer dollars. The port-a-potty was provided as a means to reduce instances of unsanitary conduct and protect the public and our staff from pathogens. We will continue to protect the public and our staff, but can no longer provide a facility to the camp that is funded with tax payer money.

As an interim measure, before the County ordinance is passed, we have directed County staff to identify unoccupied tents on the lawn as abandoned property and remove them.

We have received numerous calls and emails from constituents complaining about the camp for months. We have made every effort to acknowledge the concerns of those constituents while protecting Occupy Missoula’s right to free speech. We ask that Occupy Missoula acknowledge that they have a responsibility to conduct their protest in a way that is accountable to the Missoula community.

My interview with Jean Curtiss, Chair of the County Commissioners is attached.

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Tonight at about five in the evening was when some of the  members of Occupy Missoula learned  about the newest move from the county commissioners to develop  a policy that will prohibit camping on County property. Member of the Occupy movement Todd Jordan says they are not planning on moving anytime soon and they need more information about what the commissioners are planning on doing. My (Shande Wiest’s) interview with some of the members of the movement is attached below.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

 

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