As of 5 a.m. Monday, campers under the banner of Occupy SLO were gone from County Government Center property in downtown San Luis Obispo.
“There were three unoccupied and abandoned tents along with two ‘pop-ups’ in which three men were sitting in chairs,” said County Administrator Jim Grant.
Deputy sheriffs and San Luis Obispo police confiscated the tents “for safekeeping and went on their way,” Grant added. The pop-ups and the three “cooperative men” were allowed to stay and continue their demonstration.
The protest, part of a national effort to shed light on wealth inequity and Wall Street financial bailouts and bonuses, took root in San Luis Obispo on Oct. 21, with a demonstration and camping on the Monterey Street side of the old county courthouse.
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“The county recognized significant health and safety issues arising from the encampment within a few days of its initiation,” Grant said.
Within a week, he added, “improper use of building electrical outlets and water faucets, and human defecation and urination on the premises” prompted the county to ask for an end to the situation. A second desist notification was issued to the campers Nov. 3.
“It was made clear,” Grant said, “that the county welcomes lawful demonstrations, but does not condone the unsafe and unsanitary conditions being created by those persons camping on the courthouse grounds.”In both cases, notices were given to demonstrators, as well as placed in each tent.
They were also “posted on boards or structures in plain sight of the demonstration,” Grant said. The notices asked that the “occupation” be limited to 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., the hours when public restrooms are available.
“We had hoped for voluntary compliance and, after the first notice, we did see some compliance, but not for long,” said the county’s top administrator. “More tents moved into the area and the unsanitary conditions remained.”
Many of those people, according to Pete Evans, co-founder of Occupy SLO, were from out of the area — Boston, Washington and Santa Cruz, for example.
“Many are imbalanced mentally and some of us feel there are provocateurs trying to damage the movement by creating havoc and confusion,” Evans said.
“They are simply there for a place to camp and the soup kitchen,” Evans added. “They have been getting donations of money from the good people of SLO, but those donations have only exacerbated the situation, so we urged that to stop.”
By last Friday, Grant signed a notice that the campers were on county property without permission and, as such, were in violation of California Penal Code section 647(e), and were subject to arrest and seizure of their property if they continued to camp on county property.
After those on site were notified Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, most of the campers packed up and moved on, Grant said.
“For the time being,” he added, “the pop-ups can remain on the property and be used for their demonstration as we have been working with representatives of Occupy SLO to see if we can work out a permit for the use of the property.”
“Since most of the camp has taken off,” Evans said, “we’ve had an orderly general assembly meeting without all the riff-raff that has disrupted every meeting for over a month.”