(FORT WAYNE)(WISH) - The Occupy Fort Wayne movement, who had been protesting in Freimann Square since November, was evicted by almost 20 FWPD officers Sunday morning.
Occupy Fort Wayne first started protesting what one occupier referred to as "the things that plague the national government" in mid-October in Headwaters Park.
Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry said at the time he wanted to give the occupiers a chance to have their say and exercise their freedom of speech, even waiving all rental fees while occupying the Headwaters pavilion.
But in early November, they were forced to move when the 9-12 group rented the Headwaters pavilion to hold a rally called 'Liberating Occupy Territory."
The movement decided to set up in Freimann Square and stayed put up until Sunday morning.
According to FWPD Chief Rusty York, the occupiers were evicted because in about a week the Parks and Recreation Department will begin to prep the public spaces for springtime.
After about five months of an ongoing protest, York said the protestors' point had been made and now it's time to move on.
York said even though the occupiers were not given any notice of their eviction, the 10-15 protestors present Sunday morning took down their tents and cleaned the area peacefully.
One occupier said the protesters are upset about not getting notice to leave and will hold a general meeting soon to decide the next step for Occupy Fort Wayne. She said they may decide to occupy some place else.
If that is the case, the occupiers said they expect it to come back even stronger, but Chief York said that attempt won't take place on any public property.
Mayor Henry released this statement following the eviction:
Throughout the Occupy Fort Wayne protest, the City of Fort Wayne has worked to balance important freedom of speech and assembly principles with the use of public space.
City officials have continually reinforced with Occupy members that the situation was being monitored and that it could be reevaluated at any time.
In discussions late last year, the City recommended to Occupy members that they should consider other options long term.
With the change in the season, park use and rental requests will begin to increase, as will the time required to manage this issue.
The Occupy protesters have been informed that a permanent encampment in a public park will no longer be allowed.
This information has been conveyed to Occupy members. They have been asked to clear the encampment by noon today.
The news does not mean that Occupy members cannot continue to exercise their free speech and assembly rights. They can still demonstrate and march in public spaces - with appropriate permits, as can any citizen. But the parks must now be fully available to the general public.
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