|Occupy Iowa has organized several protests around the state, but so far only the Des Moines event led to any arrests. Hundreds of people gathered west of the state capitol yesterday afternoon. IowaPolitics.com reported,
By about 10 p.m., the group had shrunk to about 175 people, who had set up 24 tents and intended to occupy the area indefinitely.
Trooper Mark Logsdon warned the protesters at about 10:30 p.m. that they would be arrested if they stayed. About 100 members of the group, which included both teenagers and senior citizens, moved across the street near the State Historical Building to avoid arrest.
A source who stayed told me that shortly after 11 pm, protesters linked arms and sat down in the park. At least one state trooper warned the group that they would be pepper-sprayed if they refused to leave. The source saw many people dragged away by their feet. At least one man was pepper-sprayed and taken away by ambulance. Roughly 30 people were arrested, including former State Representative Ed Fallon. Fallon spent most of the night at the Polk County jail, he told me this morning. State troopers arrested at least one minor (14 years old), who was taken to a juvenile detention facility.
Speaking to IowaPolitics.com, Drake University Law Professor Sally Frank described the events as "a complete police over-reaction. The police could have chosen to let the protest remain, as they have in Iowa City and many other places [...] There was some brutality. One man was pepper-sprayed and injured."
I can't see any reason for law enforcement to use pepper spray on citizens who are protesting peacefully in a public space. They weren't harming anyone or destroying any property.
Occupy Iowa plans to protest outside the Capitol again today. I will update this post with further developments.
UPDATE: This YouTube video was filmed during the Sunday afternoon protests.
SECOND UPDATE: Governor Terry Branstad commented on the arrests during his regular weekly press conference on October 10:
"People in this country have a right to demonstrate and express their viewpoints, however we do have permits and requirements and as I understand, they had a meeting in the afternoon, but this was 11 o'clock at night and they did not have a permit to stay," Branstad says. "...The Highway Patrol...I think they acted in an appropriate and restrained manner in protecting the public safety and enforcing the requirements of having a permit."
However, Branstad told reporters this morning permits are not available for camping overnight on the statehouse grounds. According to the governor, the country's focus should be on "creating jobs" and he suggested the protesters' message may be harmful to that effort.
"I think we've got to be careful about casting blame and attacking people who we want to invest and create jobs," Branstad said during his weekly news conference inside the statehouse. "I'm very concerned about not sending the wrong signals to the decision makers in business."
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Executive Director Hugh Espey described the governor's comments as "ridiculous." Espey was at the park when troopers arrested protesters on Sunday night.
THIRD UPDATE: From an e-mail Fallon sent to supporters on October 10:
Last night, I was one of over thirty protesters arrested at "People's Park" on the Iowa State Capitol grounds. Honestly, I was surprised by the hostile response of the State Patrol. We were on public property and obstructing neither vehicular nor pedestrian traffic. We were peaceful. We were exercising our right to freedom of speech and to petition our government. The demeanor of many of the troopers made no sense to me, especially coming from a division of State Government that I respect and worked well with when I was a state lawmaker.
Today, as I dialogue with some of the 500 people who participated in yesterday's "occupy" events, it appears the arrests have only further fueled people's commitment to push the movement forward. (AND PLEASE ADD YOUR VOICE TO THE DIALOGUE, 6:00 PM, EVERY NIGHT OF THE WEEK AT PEOPLE'S PARK, E. 7TH AND LOCUST IN DES MOINES).
Speaking personally, I am pleased that the group's focus has been on State Government. Why? Because of State Government's complicity in furthering corporate domination of our lives.
- Tax breaks for powerful insurance companies, mega hospitals, and wealthy developers, to name a few.
- Law changes that favor the interests of big ag over small- and mid-size family farms, resulting in, for example, a drop in the number of pork producers from roughly 80,000 not too many years ago to under 8,000 today.
- The creation of corporate welfare programs to pad the coffers of companies already rich and powerful, companies like Wells Fargo, Monsanto, Maytag, and Iowa Beef Processors.
- Preferential law changes for MidAmerican Energy, central Iowa's utility monopoly, including a proposed rate-payer give-away that could cost 630,000 customers billions of dollars.
The list goes on and on. The point is, State Government should be the People's Government. It's become Big Business' Government. What better place to reclaim a say in how our tax dollars are spent than in the shadow of the State Capitol Building, in "People's Park?"
TUESDAY UPDATE: Radio Iowa reported that none of the Occupy Iowa protesters were arrested last night:
For a few hours on Monday evening, the group debated whether to stage a full-time occupation of the area or apply to state officials for a permit to meet at the site. [...]
By 11 o'clock, when the curfew took effect, about 50 "Occupy Des Moines" protesters started walking back and forth across the street in front the park, avoiding any arrests as they all left the statehouse grounds. Troopers remained on the scene for a while, as the "Occupy Des Moines" crowd stood on a city sidewalk across the street. [...]
A majority of the group agreed to ask state officials for a permit to "occupy" the park on the capitol grounds.
I would be surprised if state officials grant anyone permission to stay in that park beyond the curfew, which apparently isn't posted on the grounds. Troopers used excessive force to break up Sunday night's demonstration. They should have left the peaceful protesters alone. Iowa City law enforcement officials have taken a different approach, the Daily Iowan reported:
Here, though, anti-corproate protesters in College Green Park have carried on entirely peacefully.
Iowa City police are even lending the event overnight protection.
Iowa City police officers have no plans to arrest demonstrators and officials told The Daily Iowan they will monitor the demonstration to protect protesters.
Robert Schueler, who has been demonstrating at Occupy Iowa City since Friday night, said the Occupy Iowa City protesters have a positive relationship with local police.
"They've been absolutely wonderful," Schueler said. "I wish they would come by more, talk, and be a part of this. Don't be an outsider when you can be an insider."
LATER UPDATE: The Iowa City Parks and Rec director Mike Moran will let the protesters bring portable toilets to College Green Park and plans to meet with the group this Friday.
Moran said he is yet to receive any complaints about the protesters, who have transformed College Green Park into a makeshift city. [...]
Moran said he is pleased that the activists are taking care of the park. He intends to talk to them Friday about some upcoming projects that may require them to temporarily move their tents. "We are going to be doing light replacement," he said. The city also plans to collect leaves in the park this month. Moran said he is open to seeking help from protesters if they're interested in assisting with the collection.
FINAL UPDATE: On October 11 state officials granted protesters a three-day permit to protest on the Capitol grounds.