UPDATE: Occupy COMO's camp removed from city building plaza

Tuesday, November 22, 2011 | 5:12 p.m. CST; updated 7:36 p.m. CST, Tuesday, November 22, 2011
On Tuesday morning, Clayton Fish, foreground, of the maintenance department for Columbia, washes the ground with a pressure washer, while Kent Branson and Brian Scull help him scrub off stains in front of the Daniel Boone City Building. Branson, the city's building and ground supervisor, said that John Glascock, director of Public Works, ordered the clean up.

COLUMBIA — A new topic was on the agenda for Occupy COMO's general assembly meeting Tuesday evening: the removal of the group's belongings by the city that morning.

At 6 p.m., about 11 members of the Occupy COMO movement gathered in front of city hall. In an open discussion section, members clarified that city maintenance workers, not police, removed the belongings. Police had watched, though, to make sure that the move was peaceful.


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Building maintenance workers and a few Columbia police officers went to the Daniel Boone City Building at about 11 a.m. to remove the group's belongings, said Nicholas Berry, a protester. In the afternoon, the plaza at 701 E. Broadway was empty except for a few protesters and a sign leaning on the keyhole statue.

"Mr. Glasscock, nice try, but the people are not leaving! We are legion," the sign read, referring to John Glascock, director of the city's Public Works Department.

Because no one was holding it, a city worker picked up the sign to move it, but a protester claimed it. Another protester, Ariel Ceara, held the sign above her head and turned to face the windows of city hall.

The group is still allowed to protest but cannot store items, such as plastic bins and sleeping bags, in front of city hall. Police officers videotaped the removal but did not otherwise interact with the protesters or the cleanup. Berry also videotaped the removal.

"Both parties were very congenial," Jill Stedem, public information specialist for the city, said. "It wasn't any hostile takeover."

About two protesters were in the plaza when city officials arrived to clean up, Stedem said. Once the belongings were gone, maintenance workers worked to remove stains on the concrete and limestone.

The city workers removed belongings that hadn't been claimed by any of the protesters, she said, and the tent and other items were placed in a secure storage area owned by the city. If anyone wants to claim their items, they must contact Public Works.

"The things are a non-issue," Ceara said of their belongings. The Occupy movement is about the people and not the items the city removed, she said.

The group plans to contact an attorney, Berry said.

At issue was the tent, which was there as a form of artistic protest. No one slept in it, but the placement of it and other items was said to violate city ordinances, according to a previous Missourian report. The tent is in storage with the other items, which also includes 600 pounds of rocks used to anchor the tent.

Glascock told the protesters Thursday morning that they must move their belongings by Monday. The group didn't remove the tent and several other items, but on Monday morning, members did sweep up leaves and debris including trash and cigarette butts.

The group will continue to occupy the area. They will host a Thanksgiving potluck on Thursday afternoon outside city hall.

"We're not leaving," Ceara said.

Missourian reporter Carlota Cortes contributed to this report.

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