A federal judge upheld a Sacramento city curfew ordinance Wednesday, ending a months-long legal challenge by the Occupy Sacramento movement claiming the curfew rule violated the group’s First Amendment rights.
Denny Walsh reports in The Sacramento Bee that U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. ruled that the city ordinance imposing curfews in parks without a permit "is … valid time, place and manner restriction.”
Occupy attorneys claimed the ordinance was sporadically enforced and any enforcement was based on the message of the protesters, but England disagreed, saying the ordinance "predates the Occupy Sacramento demonstrations by roughly 30 years,” and the evidence showed that the city has been consistently enforcing the ordinance.
Occupiers from Vancouver to New York filed legal challenges to camping rules that would prevent them from protesting in public parks, and most of those challenges have failed. The most recent legal challenge in Sacramento joins that list.
From the beginning of the Occupy movement in Sacramento, the group has faced numerous challenges with the city and the courts, including arrests for violating “no-camping” and curfew ordinances in Cesar Chavez Plaza.
Charges stemming from those arrests were eventually dropped by the district attorney, but they fueled weeks of protests at City Council meetings. Hundreds crowded council chambers and lined up to the podium to both chastise council members for being insensitive to the movement’s message, and to plead for exceptions to the no-camping and curfew ordinances.
A shift in the movement occurred after a judge ruled against Occupy attorneys in a preliminary “no-camping” rule challenge, but suggested that the grounds of City Hall weren’t subject to the same rules as parks. Soon after, protesters left Cesar Chavez Plaza and moved across the street to the lawns at City Hall – where a small contingent of Occupiers remains today.
That move spurred the city to find new ways to contain the protest without violating the protesters’ rights: A new city ordinance adjusting rules about activities at City Hall is headed to the city Law and Legislation Committee and then to the full council. If it is passed (which seems likely), protesters who want to hang out on City Hall lawns would be subject to fines of $250 to $25,000 for breaking laws set forth in the proposed "Use of the City Hall Facility" ordinance. Those who defy the rules would be guilty of misdemeanors.
With the city no-camping ordinance upheld, and the curfew rules upheld and a squeeze coming on activities at City Hall – what’s next for the few remaining local Occupy protesters? Attorney Mark Merin told the The Bee that the recent ruling does not mean the end of the Occupy movement.
"The movement will rise again, perhaps in a different form,” Merin said. “The will of the people to decide important issues – not just who’s raising the most money in a political campaign – won’t be permanently suppressed."
This is a topic The Sacramento Press will continue looking into, and we’ll be watching the conversation below this article for your thoughts on where the story might be headed.
OTHER ITEMS OF NOTE TODAY:
R Street lofts low-income housing project gets funding– Sacramento Bee
No more parking tickets for parking at broken meters – L.A. Times
How the threat of losing beer unites a community – Atlantic Cities