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Streets around the parking lot at 4th and Ferry were blocked by police and police posted police line tape around the camp. An Occupy LR sympathizer tore it at one point, but police calmly reinstalled it.
Police Chief Stuart Thomas arrived. He talked briefly with the four people — two men and two women — who refused to leave the taped-off parking lot. They were then arrested and taken to a police van for transport to a booking point. They were handcuffed. They are to be charged with one count each of failure to disperse.
Police vehicles were assembled earlier at City Hall, including K-9 units, but no dogs made an appearance at the initial arrival of police. Dogs later joined police searching through abandoned tents.
The first person cuffed was one of two female protesters. Greg Deckelman, who's served as a spokesman for the group and who got a ticket during a march on Clinton Avenue recently, also is being arrested. He has said he'll sue. Mac Miller, Jennifer Pierce and Cee Cee Sloan-Cicirello were identified by sympathizers as being in the group headed to the police van. Sloan-Cicrello is a small business owner; Pierce works at the Clinton Library; Deckelman is a musician, and Miller is a retired military veteran, a friend said.
"The whole world is watching," a tiny group of about 15 sympathetic onlookers chanted.
David Koon, who provided the information for this report, said he counted 30 police officers on the scene. Several wore haz-mat suits as they went through the leavings of the camp. Hastings said the officers were drawn from specialty units and didn't deplete normal patrol forces during the action. OLR people claimed later than more than 50 cops were in the vicinity.
A medical doctor who'd provided volunteer help to the Occupy group said he'd inspected the site this morning as most material was being removed and said no hazardous materials were present. The suits and dog and police force present a good image for TV cameras though for a city anxious to appear responsive to a public that seemingly has grown weary of the First Amendment assembly against corporate influence on politics.
At 2 p.m., it appeared that the close-out of a protest that began in October seemed likely to be accomplished (at least as far as human removal was concerned) with a minimum of fuss and no violence in 15 minutes or so.
The four arrested received citations and were released after being processed at the county jail. No bond was required. Police cleared the site, saving three or four tents and some personal items but dumping some wooden pallets used for flooring. By 4 p.m., it was a parking lot again.
MEANWHILE: In other police activity downtown, officers were called to the robbery of a bank branch at 8th and Broadway by a man with a brown towel wrapped around his head.
UPDATE: Adam Lansky, who has served as a sometime-spokesman for Occupy Little Rock since the early days of the protest, said that the arrests today prove that there is no such thing as truly public property. While losing the physical occupation site is a blow to the Occupy Little Rock movement, Lansky said that the four arrests are an opportunity to move the arguments about free speech and the right to assemble into a court of law. He said Greg Deckelman and possibly Mac Miller, both arrested today, plan to fight their charges in court.
"They have the bravery to step into court and challenge it," Lansky said. "It gives us an opportunity to challenge the city before a judge. It's been [tried in the] court of public opinion so far, and this is a chance to take it to another level."
Before his arrest, Deckelman had said OLR had tried to negotiate with the city, but city leaders wouldn't budge. "We kept handing the city a win-win situation," he said, "and they just refused to take it. They're snatching defeat from the jaws of victory." For example, Deckelman said, OLR had offered to find another nearby lot where overflow buses from Riverfest could be parked, but the city turned them down.
Deckelman, who lived at the site full-time for two months, said an OLR encampment is important to the movement because it serves as a place for those who are interested in Occupy to come and learn what the group is about. He's confident the movement will have another encampment in the city soon. "There will be a physical occupation spot come back. Where that's going to be, that's to be determined by the Gen Assembly. We will come back with a spot. We're going to regroup and think through the options."
"Fifteen percent of our family got arrested today," said protestor Rick Wells, who watched Deckelman and the others arrested. Wells questioned why 30-plus officers were needed to arrest peaceful protestors (Lt. Terry Hastings said it was because officers were needed to clean up the site). "In my opinion, that worked against them," Wells said. "They brought 30 people out here against peaceful protestors to show their tyranny."
Asked if anything was accomplished by having the four protestors symbolically arrested, Wells said: "Hopefully it showed people what's going on. Hopefully it'll at least let people see exactly what's happening — who's actually in charge, who's not... It shows people that in today's society, you don't have a right to free speech, you don't have a right to stand up and assemble."
The mugshots of the Little Rock Four: Cicerello, Deckelman, Miller and Pierce (left to right)
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