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Occupy Jackson to ask council for extended stay in Smith Park

Occupy Jackson could be headed for a critical test Tuesday night as spokespeople for the grassroots movement ask the Jackson City Council Tuesday night for a permit to continue their low-key protest in downtown’s Smith Park for an extended period.

The occupiers, a mix of college age people, retirees and middle-agers, have been spending their days in the park’s picnic shelter, handing out literature and discussing the issues driving their protests, chiefly a feeling that the nation’s prosperity has shifted to the few at the expense of the many. They hold general assemblies at noon and 6 p.m. daily at which strategy for growing their numbers is a frequent topic.

At nightfall they move to the sidewalks along Congress and Amite streets, to avoid violating a city policy that forbids visitors in the park after dark. For the first 10 days of the occupation, the demonstrators had port-o-johns on the park for which they paid.

The protestors will be asking the council to allow them to stay in the park after dark, and say the ban on night visitors in the park can be lifted because it is set by city policy and note an ordinance. They will also be seeking permission to remain in the picnic shelter for now.

City officials were unavailable for comment Friday. A city spokesperson said the mayor might have a comment Monday on how he views letting the protesters continue to occupy Smith Park.

At Thursday night’s assembly session, speakers noted members of “Occupy Biloxi” would be coming to Jackson Saturday (Oct. 29) as part of a planned “Occupy the Capital Day” demonstration. They said they are unsure what the demonstrators from the coast have in mind as far their protest.

While the demonstrations have been little noticed in Jackson, the sustained demonstrations that began on Wall Street in New York City several weeks ago and then spread to Washington, D.C., Boston, Oakland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and other cities big and small have caught the ear of the world.

Mayors in New York, Atlanta and Oakland have unleashed riot police on the demonstrators, with multiple arrests resulting. In many instances, however, the arrests and other actions of police have only served to increase the number of protesters at subsequent demonstrations.

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