Occupy Deaths Make Oakland, Salt Lake City, Burlington Order Camps Closed
Despite sporadic violence, Occupiers say they won't abandon their encampments.
Nov. 12, 2011— -- With an Occupy demonstrator in Salt Lake City dead from what police said was a combination of carbon monoxide poisoning and drug use, a 35-year-old's suicide at Occupy Burlington, Vt., and a shooting death at what police said was within or near Occupy's Oakland, Calif. site, officials in all three cities are pressing to close those operations.
Eviction notices were handed out Friday night to Occupiers in Oakland, where the Oakland Police Officers Association argues that monitoring Occupy is unfairly cutting into worker hours that should be spent patrolling the rest of the city.
The man, who so far has not been identified, was gunned down Thursday near the Occupy Oakland encampment, and Friday Mayor Jean Quan asked the hundreds of demostrators camped in Frank Ogawa Plaza to leave voluntarily.
"It is an example of why we need to peacefully close the encampment at City Hall," Quan said. "We are asking everyone at the plaza to leave. We're going to give another official notice today."
Quan and some of the city's religious leaders released doves during a prayer service at Downtown Cathedral.
"We pray for divine wisdom upon the mayor as the leader of this city," one religious leader said. "We pray for the shooting victim. We pray for the person who shot."
The Oakland Police Officers' Association (OPOA) said the connection between the Occupy protest and the killing is clear.
"I don't see too many broad daylight murders in Downtown Oakland," Dom Arotzarena with OPOA said. "What's happened in Oakland is that this Occupy Oakland (movement) has created an environment that is conducive to crime."
But protesters told ABC station KGO-TV in San Francisco that there was no link between Occupy Oakland and the murder.
"They were not occupiers," protester Maxwell Pryde said. "It happened in an area where kids come hang out after school anyway."
Clashes between Oakland police and Occupiers have been intermittent, with police on Oct. 25 tear-gassing that encampment and arresting 85 Occupiers. The next day, Occupiers were allowed to return to their makeshift headquarters.
No deadline for heeding the new eviction notices was set, the AP reported.
In Salt Lake City -- where, thus far, police said, 91 arrests of Occupiers roughly equals the total 2010 arrests for the area including the encampment -- protesters countered officials' complaints.
"They're scapegoating Occupy," Jesse Fruhwirth, a protest organizer, told the AP.
He was among those who said their group of about 150 would go to jail before abandoning the encampment, part of a growing global movement protesting Wall Street dominance and declining overall incomes for most other households.
In Vermont, 35-year-old transient Joshua Pfenning's shooting suicide, using what police said was a stolen gun, Police Chief Mike Schirling to question the prudence of allowing the camp to remain, the Burlington Free Press reported.
Pfenning, police said, aimed the gun one of three other people inside his tent before his self-inflicted shot, about which he had forewarned other protesters.
"We know that at least one weapon has been present in the encampment and we are now clear that there has been extensive consumption of alcohol and some use of drugs by those present in the camp," said Shirling, who, according to the Free Press, had walked through the camp, chatting with protesters and handing out his business card. "The presence of structures and tents creates an enhanced risk by virtue of the activity that can and is occurring inside them."
"We might disagree," Occupier Tyler Westbrook told the chief, "but we respect your professionalism."
Protester Jaime Jackson, 20, a University of Vermont student in environmental studies, told the Free Press that the encampment, established on Oct. 28, was a necessary action.
"This movement is still young," she said, "and we're not going away."
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