BY DAVID HUNN • firstname.lastname@example.org > 314-436-2239 | Posted: Thursday, November 10, 2011 3:25 pm
UPDATED at 5:42 p.m. with comments from occupiers and more specifics on the deadline.
ST. LOUIS • City staff told Occupy St. Louis protesters that, effective at 3 p.m. today, they have 24 hours to move tents and comply with city law.
Protesters said late this afternoon that they were split on what to do tomorrow, but would make group decisions this evening, at their 7 p.m. general assembly.
JJ Medina, 40, from south St. Louis, said he planned on staying, but "would offer no violence" if police arrive tomorrow. "This is still time for negotiation," he said.
Eddie Roth, aide to Mayor Francis Slay and the city's new chief performance officer, said that police and city park officials would enter the park no sooner than 3 p.m. tomorrow, and begin removing any structures still up.
Roth did not want to say exactly when police would move in, if at all. He said the park curfew begins at 10 p.m.
After that point, he said, police will ask protesters to step outside the park boundaries. If they don't leave, they could be arrested.
They could, he said, remain on the sidewalks surrounding the park -- but without tents.
Roth said he did not expect violence. He, and other mayoral aides, have been meeting with protesters for hours each night over the last two days.
The protesters have "made clear that they are not a violent movement," he said. "And they have no intention of engaging in or provoking violence."
The mayor has, so far, treated the protesters gingerly.
But, late last week, he announced in his blog that they'd be asked to leave soon. The protesters responded early this week, vowing to stay put.
Tuesday, the mayor agreed to send staff to meet with protesters. Nothing, however, was immediately solved.
Then, just after 2 p.m. today, maybe a dozen law enforcement officers, parks workers and city officials arrived at Kiener, said Sasha Patino, 41, from St. Louis.
They passed out fliers warning occupiers that, after 3 p.m. tomorrow, the city would "strictly enforce all ordinances and regulations regulating the use of public parks."
Some vowed they would not leave.
"I've been practicing civil disobedience since the 6th," Patino said. "I'm perfectly happy being arrested.
"I've been waiting for almost a month now," he continued, laughing. "I'm slightly disappointed it hasn't happened."
Still, by late Thursday afternoon, a few tents had already been taken down.
Several said they didn't know where else they'd go. Shelters they had called were only accepting women with children.
Others were aiming to return to the Mississippi riverfront homeless encampments, said Roger Wilkes, 41.
"Now most that's left are homeless," Wilkes said. "What's there left to fight for? We're going down to tent city."
Protesters said there was a march -- perhaps the final one -- planned for 10 a.m. tomorrow, from Kiener to Soldier's Memorial, in honor of Veteran's Day.