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Councilmember Tells Occupy Davis: "I’ll be Here Every Day"

Councilmember Stephen Souza says the Occupy Davis movement should begin planning an "exit strategy."

The police chief showed up at the in Central Park Thursday and presented them with a list of city code violations and community complaints.

Many at the camp perceived this to be a strategy to get them removed from the park, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. At least for now.

Councilmember Stephen Souza, who will discuss the issue with the city council at a closed session on Monday, agreed to meet with the occupiers for a meeting yesterday evening. In that meeting, he listed some of the city's concerns: 

  • The tarp that covers the Occupy site is flammable and could result in a citation if not removed by Monday. This was the biggest safety concern, Souza said.
  • The campsite is harmful to the park. “The grass is now dead,” Souza said. “So if someone is smoking in there (and something happens), you’re going to go up in flames.”
  • They need permits for outdoor cooking.
  • Signs on the oak tree near Farmer’s Market should be removed. The Occupy site should be central and concentrated, not scattered.
  • Animal Control was called, but the specifics are unknown.

Souza drove home the point that he supports the cause of the Occupy movement, but that he feels it must manifest itself as something more than a physical campsite as it moves forward. He says it’s in the movement’s best interest to begin plotting an “exit strategy.”

“I support what you’re after whole-heartedly,” he said. “There isn’t an ounce of me that doesn’t support that, from the moment that started on Wall Street. I, as a practitioner of non-violent action, understand the evolution that goes on.”

He addressed the issue of camping in the park from another angle as well:

“It’s like wearing out your welcome,” he said. “You can stay at a friend's house for only so long, and then your friend says, ‘hey why don’t you go find your own place?’”

“This isn't our friend's house," one occupier said of the park. "This is our house." 

“But the problem is that the community believes it’s all of our house," Souza said. "It’s not just a portion of some people's house. They would use this word, and it’s probably the wrong word … ‘squatting.’”

Those in attendance agreed with Souza's suggestion that the movement should evolve, but many resisted the notion that physical occupation should not continue to be part of it. 

“Don’t expect to just show up here and change our minds and persuade us that occupation is not effective after we’ve been here for a month,” one person said. “People’s minds just don’t work that way.”

So, what will happen if Occupy Davis addresses the city's specific concerns?

“We’ll see," Souza said. "All I know is that these are concerns that we have right now. If we wanted you out of here, you’d be out of here. We wouldn’t have given you those concerns. The police would have come in and [the campsite] would have been taken away.”

Some disagreed with this, pointing out that the "city-code violation" approach has been used in many cities to dismantle the camps while avoiding major confrontation. Souza reiterated, though, that the concerns were legitimate.

One person made a comment about police abuse, which prompted a very direct response from Souza. 

"We’re not coming down with clubs here,” he said. “That’s not the Davis way. I’m telling you as a representative that I will not allow that to happen. When I heard [that the police came today] I jumped in my truck and came down here to be an intermediary.”

And it won’t be the last time Souza drives his truck down to the site. After one person asked why the council hasn’t shown more visible support for the occupation, Souza said he had been there several times. When some suggested it wasn't enough, he took it a step further.

“I’ll come everyday,” he said. “I can’t spend the night everyday. I’ll come everyday. I’ll make that guarantee.”

“Now that’s a legitimate guarantee,” several occupiers said. “You’re making history, man.”

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