CHARLOTTE, N.C.,None - The Occupy Charlotte protests did not end Monday with the ousting from their makeshift campground in uptown Charlotte.
Tuesday morning, the protesters moved to City Hall’s grounds and have refused to leave. The group expected to move into a courtroom Tuesday afternoon to regain access to the park, but that hearing was postponed.
The complaint, filed on behalf of Occupy Charlotte, claims the city might be unlawfully interfering with the group’s rights to free speech and protest.
An attorney representing the group will make that argument to a judge Tuesday afternoon and ask for an injunction to not only allow Occupy Charlotte back on the front lawn of Old City Hall, but also let them bring back their tents.
The tents were dismantled and removed Monday afternoon after the group did not adhere to the 2:30 p.m. deadline to move from the park.
Several people were arrested during the removal.
“In comparison with many of the movements we feel like yesterday went very well. No one got hurt and there was no violence,” said CMPD Capt. Jeff Estes.
The question that lingers now is one of legality: will a judge uphold the no camping ordinance that police used as a basis for Monday’s removal? Or will Occupy be allowed back on city property?
Occupy out, HazMat crew in
Meanwhile, in the Old City Hall park, the removal of the tents has brought about another problem that may require a hazardous materials crew.
Tuesday morning, firefighters used pry bars to open a storm drain so a HazMat team could collect samples. Police said when they were removing tents Monday, they suspected some of the Occupy protesters had been using the drain as a toilet.
The protesters have been occupying the park since October and firefighters said the problem could have been one that passed beneath the purview of city officials for months because the area was covered by tents.
The storm drain flows into Sugar Creek by Central Piedmont Community College. Firefighters said there is no health risk to the students there.
Officials said they do not know what actions will be required to clean the area until test results come back from a laboratory.
Several protesters said the use of the storm drain as a toilet were the actions of a few people and does not represent the movement.
"I hate that this comes back and tries to represent the movement because it's just 1 or 2 individuals out of a group of 50 to 100 people that would do something like this and it is unfortunate that we get branded with such an action," said Occupy member Eric Dow.
According to Dow, Occupy organizers tell the protesters to use the bathrooms at the magistrate’s office, which are open 24 hours a day.
What does it all cost?
Police said when they combine the pay of the officers who have been at the Occupy camp watching the group for the past four months, they spent nearly $447,000.
The police department spent $18,000 on Monday's removal.
“There were dozens of officers tasked from other duties who would’ve already been and were assigned to work,” Estes said. “There was no place in the city left unsafe or uncovered.”
According to CMPD, Occupy Charlotte cost nearly $1,7000 per day for the 115 days of their occupation.
Many officers carried video cameras to record the activities of the Occupy protesters, a fact that angered many members of Occupy Charlotte.
But CMPD officials said it’s important for them to record the events so that they have something to show in court, if it ends up there.
“It’s very difficult to control small sound bites and clips that can be taken out of context and end up on YouTube, so we like to have the whole of it,” Estes said.
For now, the few protesters that remain in uptown Charlotte said they will protest during the day and sleep in other parks at night where they said they will be left alone.