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Occupy Sacramento movement expands to City Hall grounds

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In the wake of a rejected special permit to occupy Cesar Chavez Plaza 24 hours a day, Occupy Sacramento protesters expanded their occupation to the front door of City Hall, 915 I St., on Tuesday.

“We want to fully exercise our First Amendment right to assemble,” Kevin Carter, 55, a youth volunteer and an Occupy Sacramento outreach coordinator said. “If our grievances are going to be addressed, they need to be addressed right here.”

Protesters packed up some of their canopies, tents and information tables Tuesday and gathered at the front of Old City Hall as well as on the lawns in front of the new City Hall building, immediately behind the older building.

“Our statement is simply this,” Carter said. “If you’re going to deny us our First Amendment rights, then we’re going to come (to City Hall) and make sure you know that we’re not going to go away.”

The permit rejection letter – delivered Monday to local civil rights attorney Mark Merin, who represents the Occupy Sacramento group – stated that the permit application was incomplete when it was submitted.

The letter also stated that if the application is completed later, it will still likely be denied because it has no defined duration, and extension of park hours “is not consistent with the sound use of park resources” and “may be detrimental to the public safety or welfare.”

Protesters were unfazed by the permit rejection, according to Cres Vellucci, a legal adviser for the Occupy Sacramento group.

Instead, it inspired the group to expand its protest base across the street to City Hall, Veluccii said.

“Every code section we’ve seen in our research shows we can be in front of and behind City Hall 24 hours a day, unlike Cesar Chavez park, which has curfew hours,” Vellucci said. “Now (the movement) is out of the curfew section of the code.”

Jack Hart, 22, an unemployed musical theater actor and Occupy Sacramento coordinator, said the protest group is in no hurry to end its occupation at either Cesar Chavez Plaza or at City Hall – and may expand further “if need be.”

Hart said that protesters will attend the City Council meeting Tuesday to make public comment for the sixth week in a row.

Although there is no formal curfew for City Hall grounds, a city camping ordinance is in effect, according to the city code.

The camping ordinance states that it is “unlawful and a public nuisance for any person to camp, occupy camp facilities, or use camp paraphernalia” on any public property. Violations of this code are misdemeanors, punishable by fines up to $1,000 and up to six months in county jail.

Melissa Corker is a Staff Reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Twitter @MelissaCorker.

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