San Luis Obispo County has asked the Occupy SLO campers to limit their protest and find somewhere else to defecate.
On Oct. 28, County Administrator Jim Grant sent a notice to the dozen or so campers outside the San Luis Obispo Superior courthouse to limit their protests from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Three days later, one of the protesters, wearing a “Free Hugs” T-shirt and stitching a pair of pants, said if they don’t camp out, it’s not really an occupation.
“I wish it was just free assembly,” he said. “I don’t want there to be some crazy campout.”
But no one plans to leave at night. Some of the campers said they were asked to not spend the night, but they were never cited laws stating that they were prohibited from doing so. And outside of a few run-ins instigated by drunks stumbling out of downtown bars, everything’s been mellow for the last few days, they said.
The camp, which began as a local arm of the broader Occupy Wall Street protests in New York, transformed from an Occupy SLO-organized protest into more of a transient shantytown after about a week. Occupy SLO organizers officially pulled out on Oct. 25, saying they were going to regroup after fights and rifts broke out among the campers. But according to the remaining protesters, the self-described Occupy SLO organizers were coming back as of press time.
At the moment, there’s no enforcement behind the county’s order, which is listed as a request to cease and desist from the following: Camping overnight, urinating or defecating on the grounds or in the bushes, dumping water used for cooking and cleaning onto county property, using electricity from county buildings, and using water from county buildings.
Local activist Eric Greening told SLO County supervisors on Nov. 1 that the county has no business limiting First Amendment rights and if there’s a problem with bowel movements, the county should provide a portable toilet because there aren’t any public restrooms. Really, he said, it’s not just about limiting the ability of people to protest, but also a longstanding failure by public officials to address homelessness, or at least to provide a place for people to go to the bathroom.
“They all have bowels, they’re moving them somewhere, it’s just that it’s across the street and it’s in your face,” Greening said of campers who might otherwise be camping in the nearby creeks.
According to Grant, the group has generally complied with the request outside of a lingering tent. And no one’s talking about kicking them out at night by force.
“Right now, we’re going to let it ride,” he said.