Occupy Atlanta protesters return to streets after police crackdown

Those arrested either refused to leave the park after the 11 p.m. closing time or blocked nearby streets, police said.

Story highlights

  • Protesters begin another night of demonstrations
  • Police: Protesters block Atlanta roads, making them unsafe for traffic
  • A protester is charged with aggravated assault and obstruction
  • There is too much financial disparity and too much at stake, a protester says
Occupy protesters returned to the streets of Atlanta on Sunday night, a day after a police crackdown on a gathering organized by the movement resulted in the arrests of 19 people.
About 80 people converged on the city's Centennial Olympic Park for a peaceful gathering, according to police. The group was scheduled to return to Woodruff Park, the site of Saturday's arrests, later in the night to hold a "Nonviolence Training Seminar."
Those arrested Saturday included two people who refused to leave Woodruff Park after the 11 p.m. closing time and 17 others charged with obstructing traffic after the crowd poured onto nearby streets, the Atlanta Police Department said.
"Before any arrests were made, people in the park were given several warnings over a loudspeaker, in English and Spanish, that anyone remaining in the park after the 11 p.m. closing time would be in violation of city ordinances," police said in a statement.
In Atlanta, shortly after the park closed, protesters picked up their tents and tossed them onto the sidewalks to ensure that they were not confiscated. They then moved to nearby streets, where they planned to continue with their protests.
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"We decided to leave two people at Woodruff Park to get arrested while the rest of us went onto the streets," said protester George Chidi.
Police gathered to herd protesters away from the park and the sidewalks.
"A large Atlanta police force including motorcycles, mounted police, officers on foot, a SWAT team in riot gear and a helicopter moved in aggressively and faced off with the marchers," protest organizers said in a statement. "Peace was maintained until a policeman on a motorcycle accelerated into a demonstrator."
Police said a protester was charged with aggravated assault and obstruction for assaulting a motorcycle officer patrolling the area.
A spokesman for Atlanta police did not respond to a request for comment on organizers' claims -- citing video evidence -- that the officer accelerated into the crowd.
The group may change gears and use other ways to convey its message, including "occupying" banking facilities and homes facing foreclosure, according to Chidi.
Despite the standoffs with police, there is too much financial disparity -- and too much at stake -- to just sit back, he said Saturday.
"The financial services industry is not being properly regulated or overseen," said the 38-year-old consultant. "We are cruising toward another 2008 meltdown."
And the protests will send a strong message, he said.
"We have not learned a lesson from the last catastrophe. If there are no people protesting, if banks start failing again because of Greece, they will come back to the government for a bailout. The government needs to know people are watching."
Occupy Atlanta is an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement that started in New York in September as a call to action against unequal distribution of wealth.
The movement has spread nationwide and beyond, with major cities continuing with protests despite encounters with the law.
Last week, 78 Occupy protesters charged with nonviolent offenses were scheduled for arraignment in New York. All but 14 showed up in court, the Manhattan District Attorney's office said.
New York has made 555 arrests in the Occupy Wall Street movement on charges ranging from minor violations to felonies, the district attorney's office said.
New York City Police said last week they charged a 26-year-old Brooklyn man with sexual abuse for inappropriately touching an 18-year-old woman at Zuccotti Park, the home base for the protests.
In Oakland, California, demonstrators and police clashed last week, prompting authorities to use tear gas on protesters who defied orders to disperse.
Meanwhile, in Vancouver, Canada, police said Sunday a woman thought to be in her 20s died after being found unresponsive inside a tent at the Occupy Vancouver encampment at the Vancouver Art Gallery.
"The cause of death has not been determined; however, no evidence has been uncovered at this early stage in the investigation to suggest the death is suspicious," Vancouver police said in a statement.