SALT LAKE CITY — Police arrested 19 protesters supporting the Occupy Wall Street movement who refused to remove tents from a downtown park late Saturday but avoided the violent clashes that have occurred in other cities across the nation. Some of the other demonstrators were headed to Ogden and Provo late Saturday night to continue their efforts.
Although police entered the park at sundown with a significant show of force — including a couple dozen cars, two buses for prisoner transport and spotlights — officers were not wearing riot gear or flashing batons.
Instead, Chief Chris Burbank and other officers worked their way methodically from tent to tent, asking people to leave and arresting those who didn’t comply.
About 150 people have camped in Pioneer Park for more than a month as part of the Occupy Salt Lake group, and city officials had granted them the needed permits.
But after a man was found dead in one of the tents Friday morning, the permits were revoked and protesters were given about 24 hours to leave. Officials say they believe the man died of a mix of an accidental drug overdose and carbon monoxide poisoning.
While police cleared the tents, protesters sang songs of solidarity and chanted the name of each person who was arrested. Everyone taken into police custody went peacefully, and some even thanked officers for not hurting them.
Following the removal of tents, the city parks department moved in with a front-end loader and dump trucks to remove pallets, boards and garbage left by the protesters.
“A lot of credit goes to the people who were working with the police, as well as the officers,” Burbank said. “This went about as well as could be expected.”
One of the people arrested, Sharonanne Wade, 43, said she planned to return to the park today. She went with the officers peacefully because she didn’t blame them for the shutdown.
“I believe in this protest, but it doesn’t need to become violent,” Wade said. “I’m protesting for these officers, as well. They are part of the 99 percent, but I understand they also have a job to do.”
While many of the protesters remained past the deadline, only a few were willing to actually get arrested. Instead, representatives of the group reached an agreement with city officials that would allow them to stay in the park around the clock as long as people weren’t camping.
“We need to cooperate with police so we can maintain a presence,” said Seth Neily, one of the primary organizers.
A smaller camp of about a dozen people in downtown Salt Lake City remained in place Saturday night, although police have also told them to remove their tents.
Protesters were also given alternatives to arrest.
John Netto, whose sons own a limousine company, offered rides in stretch Hummers for people who wanted to store their belongings in a warehouse and return to the park in the morning.
He also gave about a dozen protesters rides to another group that is legally camped at a church in Ogden, about 30 miles north of Salt Lake City.
Group member Talan Wilhelm posted on the Occupy Ogden Facebook page Saturday night that he got word at 7:30 p.m. that 25 people from their original Pioneer Park location in Salt Lake City would be joining Occupy Ogden after the city and police shut them down.
However, about 9:30 p.m. Saturday, it appeared that some of the 25 people might instead be going to Provo.
Occupy Ogden is at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden, 705 23rd St.
The church leadership voted to give the group and its cardboard signs a spot to stay and protest until they find a more permanent one, the Standard-Examiner reported earlier this week.