Occupy St. Louis Fights Eviction Today


     ST. LOUIS (CN) - Occupy St. Louis protesters were arrested over the weekend after a federal judge refused to grant the group a temporary stay on the city's decision to evict them from Kiener Plaza. A hearing on the group's request for a preliminary injunction is set for today (Tuesday).
     Twenty-four members of Occupy St. Louis sued the city, its police department and board of police commissioners after city officials told protesters that starting Friday, Nov. 11, they would start enforcing the park's curfew laws, which prohibit anyone from occupying city parks between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
     Occupy St. Louis has set up tents and occupied the popular city park since Oct. 1.
     In their federal complaint, the protesters claim the city's decision to evict them is arbitrary and violates the First Amendment.
     "In order to survive intermediate scrutiny, the government objective must be important and the means chosen to enforce it must be substantially related to this objective," the complaint states. "The government cannot meet its burden here. There is no important objective that the city would accomplish by evicting the protesters at this time. They have been residing in the park since October 1, 2011, therefore all through the pennant race and during the World Series. If they had an important objective to accomplish through eviction, it would make sense for them to have done so then, not now. Thus the means chosen for eviction, a notice served hours before a federal holiday, are not substantially related to any important objective. While it is the burden of the government to prove that it passes this test, they cannot do so here."
     U.S. District Judge Carol Jackson denied the group's request for a temporary restraining order, but agreed to hold a hearing today on its request for a preliminary injunction.
     Acting on Jackson's Friday ruling, police arrested about 100 protesters at Kiener Plaza that night.
     The group has returned to Kiener Plaza and told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch it plans to maintain a round-the-clock presence there.
     No arrests have been made since, because the protesters have taken down their tents and moved to a sidewalk next to the park between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
     Police said more arrests will be made if the tents return or if any of the protesters refuse to move to the sidewalk.
     "We fully expect Occupy St. Louis to be a prominent, visible presence in our community indefinitely," Eddie Roth, an aide to St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, told the Post-Dispatch. "We're just asking them to follow the law, and we'll accommodate them in every way we can."