County Evicts Occupiers From County Courthouse Lawn; County Withdraws Federal Lawsuit

Monday, March 19, 2012

A large contingent of officers from the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office and county parks and recreation swooped down on the longtime occupiers of the County Courthouse lawn on Monday afternoon. The dozen or so tents that had been set up on the lawn for several months were taken off in the unannounced strike.

The County Commission earlier had gone to Federal Court on Jan. 10 to seek to get a ruling evicting the protestors. But there had not yet been a ruling, and the county on Monday asked that the lawsuit be withdrawn "in light of changed circumstances rendering the petition moot."

The County Commission also passed new rules against overnight camping on certain county property on Jan. 4 and the state Legislature later passed a similar bill. 

In the raid around 2 p.m., the officers first put bags over nearby parking meters. Then they began carrying off the tents.

Normally, in the daytime there are few members of Occupy Chattanooga at the site. More assemble at night.

Officials noted it was time for the annual spring sprucing up of the courthouse lawn. Portions of the lawn are now bare where tents were placed or the protestors held their assemblies around campfires.

'The Chattanooga Police Department will by no means stop anyone from standing or sitting on sidewalks who is peacefully protesting. However, city code is clear that no one shall obstruct a sidewalk and there shall be no structures, tents, camps, or fires on city property," said Chattanooga Police spokesman Nathan Hartwig.

A number of protestors at the site were from out of town. 

Occupy Chattanooga had been camped on the courthouse lawn since Nov. 1, 2011.

Occupy Chattanooga officials said, "Occupiers were not given any warning. Protestors exited their tents to find a Hamilton County Sheriff's deputy standing in front of each tent. There were about 15 officers present to remove the camp. The occupiers were ordered away from the tents, not allowed to gather or touch any of their property. Deputies removed the tents, pallets, personal items and other property of the camp and placed it on the city-owned sidewalk in front of the courthouse. The tents were searched before deputies removed them, despite occupiers repeatedly telling deputies they did not consent to a search of their property."

Occupiers said they questioned Sheriff Jim Hammond and he referred all questions to Hamilton County Commission Chairman Larry Henry, stating that it was he who had ordered the eviction.

The Occupies said, "Hammond could not cite the law under which the eviction was taking place or produce any paperwork ordering the eviction.

"Occupiers contend that some property was damaged and lost during the eviction process. At least one lock on a tent was cut, some tent poles were snapped and two Sony radios are missing.

"Following the eviction, deputies and public works employees placed an orange plastic fence around the Occupy Chattanooga site and deputies remain on patrol around the courthouse to keep occupiers from re-entering the area.

"Shortly after the eviction, Occupy Chattanooga learned that the county had the same afternoon filed a motion to dismiss the federal lawsuit it had filed against the protestors, seeking the court's approval to remove the camp.

"Occupy Chattanooga condemns the county's actions and believes the county acted as it did because it knew it could not win the lawsuit on constitutional grounds. Occupy Chattanooga is consulting with its attorney, David Veazey and Public Citizen of Washington D.C., to determine what its next legal action will be.  "

A General Assembly was held at 5:30 Monday afternoon on the Hamilton County Courthouse steps. The General Assembly decided to remain in a 24-hour vigil on the Hamilton County Courthouse property. The next General Assembly will be Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.

 


Family Makes Treasure Trove Of Early Chattanooga Photographs Available For Book; Stokes Collection Has Been Passed Down To Descendants

A treasure trove of Chattanooga photographs that have been passed down in the Stokes family for generations has now been assembled in an upcoming book. Chattanooga Around The Turn Of The Century: The Remarkable Stokes Collection will be published by Chattanoogan.com. Pre-orders are now being taken for the book, which includes over 700 photos on large-size pages. Publisher ... (click for more)

TBI Seeking Helping Identifying Woman Found Dead At Foster Falls 7 Years Ago

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is asking for the public’s help in identifying an older woman found deceased seven years ago at the entrance to Foster Falls State Park in Marion County. Efforts to determine who she was since her body was found in February 2007 have not yet led to her identity, so agents hope someone seeing her description may recognize her. ... (click for more)

How To Reform The City Industrial Development Board - And Response (3)

My aims is to bring to the public’s attention the need for procedural changes that, if implemented, would significantly improve the information available the public, to the City Council and to the City Industrial Development Board about the verifiable benefits and costs of tax incentive financing structures and to make the entire process transparent. The public, the City ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: He Can Never Go Home

When Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston sparked top-ranked Florida State to a 56-41 comeback over N.C. State last Saturday, you would have thought the world had forgotten and virtually excused his vulgar rant from the week before. His inexcusable mid-week antics kept him sidelined during the Clemson game and brought down the nation’s scorn but less than a week later he was ... (click for more)

Notre Dame Earns Senior-Night Soccer Victory

Honoring the team’s nine seniors was a focus of Tuesday night’s girls’ soccer match at Notre Dame, but it wasn’t the top priority for the Lady Irish. They knew that a win over visiting Signal Mountain would secure a first-place finish in District 7-AA, and their mission was to earn it. Notre Dame did just that, making Emma Higgins’ early goal stand for a ... (click for more)

UTC Men's Hoops: Brooks Savage, Alex Wharton Promoted

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn.---The Chattanooga Mocs men’s basketball program is promoting two staffers, pending University approval, coach Will Wade announced Tuesday. Brooks Savage and Alex Wharton are moving into new roles in the wake of assistant coach Turner Battle leaving to take a similar position at UAB. Savage takes Battle’s place as a full-time assistant after ... (click for more)