On short notice, Miami-Dade County has told the Occupy Miami protesters to relocate from their current encampment on County Hall grounds to the adjacent north lawn to make room for a construction project, according to a county official. From the Herald:
“It’s a safety hazard for them to be there,” said Susie Trudie, a county spokeswoman. “We’re hoping for a peaceful resolution.”
The county sent a letter on Nov. 4 to the protest permit-holders, giving a 5 p.m. Thursday deadline for the short move.
The issue with the protesters: They feel they had “an indefinite permit” to be in the area.
“We’ll move, but on two conditions. One, that the permit stays indefinite. And two, that we see a contractor’s schedule,” said Jorgen Fernandez, 22, an activist from Miami Lakes.
Situated on the other side of a large fountain from where the Occupy Miami protest has been based since mid-October, the north lawn is already filling up with tents, according to the Herald article. This suggests that at least some of the protesters don’t view the eviction as part of a power struggle between the movement and the local authorities, which, unlike in several other cities across the country, have had a good rapport heretofore.
Occupy Miami’s unofficial organizers, however, are attempting to use the relocation order as a way to fire up the movement’s supporters. Here is an excerpt from an email, sent today at 1:17 p.m. from an occupymiami.org email address, with the subject line “EMERGENCY Call to Action”:
This is an open call to all people of conscience to come out TODAY,THURSDAY, NOV 10 ASAP to rally and stand in solidarity with those of us able and courageous enough to gather in protest of the current economic and political crisis facing our country.
Dade County is threatening to kick us out by use of force from the land we are occupying despite being granted an indefinite permit to protest. The county wants to revoke their commitment to the indefinite permit and replace it with a permit that has to be reapplied for and approved on a week to week basis, including having a couple thousand dollar insurance policy attached to it! It’s nonsense.
With the relocation deadline still a couple of hours away, it is unclear now whether the situation will escalate and resolve itself without incident. We will update this post as soon as we know more.
Update: This afternoon county project plant manager Juan C. Silva sent a letter to two representatives of Occupy Miami — Alex Ospina and Julio Hernandez, the two men who secured the West Lawn permit on behalf of the protesters — saying that “we will not enforce our rights to compel you to leave the unpermitted North property until 24 hours after the construction project on the West Lawn has been completed.”
The letter says the construction project is expected to commence on Sunday morning and be completed by the end of the day “subject to weather conditions.” It continues: “At the completion of the construction, Occupy Miami must return to the West Lawn and, if so, we will not enforce our rights to compel you to leave the unpermitted West Lawn until after Friday, November 18, 2011. This agreement is contingent upon Occupy Miami vacating the West Lawn by 5:00 today, or as shortly thereafter as is practical, and its continued peaceful activity.”
It sounds like the county is taking the position that Occupy Miami’s original West Lawn permit runs out on Friday, Nov. 18, and it plans to try to evict the protesters on that day. The protesters themselves, however, believe they have an indefinite permit to stay on the West Lawn.
Here is the correspondence between the county and the Occupy Miami protesters who secured the protest’s permit.