ST. LOUIS–(KMOX)–Occupy St. Louis members pitched a tent in Kiener Plaza today — in the same park where they were removed by police last fall — only to have a city park ranger confront them, and the tent came down.
Round one went to the establishment, as the protest movement that aims to highlight the excesses of corporate America, yielded to authorities, rather than risk arrest.
“Tents are integral to the occupy movement,” said veteran Occupier Katherine Lapinksi, speaking with KMOX before the tent went up. “We’re going to pitch tents this weekend and they will stay as long as we let them stay.”
A leading figure in last fall’s Occupy Movement here, Paul Popopsky arrived carrying a tent from his car. With the help of two other group members, he unfurled it on Kiener Plaza by the sidewalk. The pup tent quickly took shape with the words “We are the 99 percent” on each side. Popopsky expressed regret for the way the protest ended last fall with arrests and the group giving up the plaza.
“We expected the space to be retaken while we were in jail, but people had different feelings about that,” Popopsky said.
When the first tent of the spring was in place, there was a brief feeling of optimism among the 20 or so Occupy members there. Celebratory cigarettes were lit. But then a city park ranger showed up, with hands on hip, telling them no tents and no signs, because it violates city ordinances.
Five minutes after it went up, the tent came down, leaving Popopsky to explain his decision to comply.
“Well, for now we’re taking down the tent,” Popopsky said, “Maybe later the tent will go back up, or maybe it will reappear somewhere else. You never know with us crazy Occupiers.”
In a phone interview, St. Louis Parks Director Gary Bess explained why the tent was ordered down. “We only allow tents to be put up if you have a permit for the area,” Bess said, “And with Kiener Plaza, it’s already permitted to the Irish this weekend.”
Occupy members discussing the setback noted that because the tent contains the words “We are the 99 percent,” they believe it should be protected from removal by free speech rights in the Constitution.
During their spring, summer campaign, Occupiers plan to focus their protests on environmental issues — taking aim at Monsanto and Peabody Energy.
Occupy supporters from across the region are in town for the Occupy Midwest conference, which members describe as a strategy session to share best practices and plan their next move.