BERKELEY (KCBS) – The Occupy Wall Street movement has popularized a new mode of protest that challenges the definition of First Amendment freedom.
Where activists once pitched tents for a day, a night, or even a week to call attention to a particular issue such as hunger, Occupy tents in Oakland and San Francisco have been pitched 24 hours a day, seven days a week under an umbrella of causes with no end in sight.
“Once the tent goes in, you have a tough time getting it out,” said KCBS, CBS 5 and Chronicle Insider Phil Matier.
KCBS, CBS 5 And Chronicle Insider Phil Matier:
By sunrise on Thursday, the Occupy Cal tents removed from the lawn outside Sproul Hall on the UC Berkeley campus the night before had been pitched again. Police simply looked the other way as the demonstrators regrouped after a tense night of confrontation.
Matier said the bitter lessons in Oakland and the resilience of Occupy demonstrators elsewhere suggest the days of simply staging a march or placing a banner may be over.
“Now it’s the tent,” he said, “the idea of 24 hours and we’re here and we’re here to stay.”
The question of when—or even how—to remove protester encampments has come to dominate cities such as Oakland and San Francisco, where merchants complain the Occupy Wall Street sympathizers have actually driven customers away from the small businesses they ostensibly support.
Matier noted that tents had been pitched outside Berkeley City Hall for some time and the world barely noticed, largely because the city simply tolerated the small encampment.
“Nobody pays attention to Berkeley any more and there was only a couple of them,” he said.
There will be no easy reconciliation for what advocates see as free speech, Matier said, given the reaction from many communities whose response could be summed up as “whoa, you’re camped out on my front door.”
(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)