Occupy SLO battle leads to theft allegations
November 24, 2011
By KAREN VELIE
An internal battle between members of the Occupy SLO movement has lead to the filing of a theft report against four members who cleaned out the San Luis Obispo County Courthouse demonstration site.
Several Occupy SLO members opposed to the courthouse demonstration moved in on the site Wednesday night taking tents, clothing, posters and furniture while the site was largely unmanned.
In response, several supporters of the demonstration filed a report Thursday morning with the San Luis Obispo Police department claiming Occupy SLO founder Pete Evans and three others stole their belongings.
Evans said that except for a couple of “vagrants,” the camp was largely unmanned when they took it down.
“It is a transient meth camp,” Evans said. “We think they are damaging our relations with the community.
“We are not in compliance with the edict from Jim Grant (SLO County administrator) or our own policies,” Evans added. “We went down to Occupy SLO with normal people and there are derelicts hanging out.”
Supporters of the demonstration argue they are not all transients and that Evans does not have the legal right to take their belongings. Steven Boothe, a Cuesta College employee and demonstrator, said they took a canopy tent he has owned for years.
“They took down the site without communication, so others would not know,” Boothe said. “They did not have a right to take our belongings and not tell any of us where they were taking them. I am here every day.”
Evans said two officers showed up at his house earlier today. He said he told the officers he was making sure the items were kept safe. He questioned how anyone could prove who owned each item because no one had their names on their things.
“The police said it was a non-issue because I am not resisting,” Evans said. “They told me to return the stuff. I am going to take the things I have back to the courthouse and I will call and ask the others to return the stuff.”
Evans returned most of the items on Thursday afternoon.
Rifts in the Occupy SLO group started more than a month ago when several loud protestors showed up at a Mitchell Park meeting that Evans and the group’s founders organized. The new members interrupted the meeting to argue over the direction the movement should take.
At first, both camps were in favor of the courthouse occupation. But as more and more homeless arrived, several of the Occupy SLO founders wanted to disband the occupation.
After about 18 days, the occupation opponents made their first attempt to disband the camp. They removed protestors’ belongings and left notes telling them where they had taken the items.
However, this time, there were no notices left explaining who had taken down the protest site. And this time, Evans helped reconstruct the protest site.
“We got the canopies back and tables and chairs,” Boothe said. “We are basically back up and running.”
Boothe said that even though some items are still missing, he wants to have the charges dropped. However, other members of the group still want those who took their things arrested.