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Council votes to clarify city camping ordinance

Changes to Claremont’s camping ordinance approved Tuesday will require Occupiers to petition to keep their encampment at city hall.

Claremont City Council unanimously voted to clear up language within the ordinance to include activities such as Occupy Claremont. The amended ordinance states it’s against city law to  “camp, occupy camp facilities, use camp paraphernalia or store personal property” without permission granted by the city council.

Changes were necessary to address the recent Occupy movement sweeping the nation; an emergence not anticipated when the ordinance was first put into place 6 years ago.

“[The amendment] is not intended to endorse or deny the rights of any particular group,” said Mayor Pro Tem Larry Schroeder. "The way the ordinance was set up was not the way it was intended and it needed to be fixed.”

The city originally recommended the council adopt the amendments as an urgency ordinance, which would allow changes to take effect within 3 days, giving Occupiers little chance to petition its encampment.

“The proposal before you...needs further and deeper consideration,” said Gregory Toliver, a participant of Occupy Claremont who addressed the council at Tuesday’s meeting. “Your responsibility is not to stop a protest.  Your responsibility is to protect safety, protect freedom in this community and show compassion and practical response to its problems.”

However, the council unanimously opted to approve the ordinance without urgency, giving Occupiers 45 days to petition to keep their tents in place, a decision that seemed to pacify many.

“It is an equitable solution for all parties involved,” said resident Betty Crocker. Ms. Crocker has voiced supportive of the Occupy Movement itself, but is concerned with the city’s lack of enforcement with its ordinances.

Claremont resident Mark Vinsonhaler, who has been Occupying city hall since the beginning of December, says he and others of Occupy Claremont are eager to put encampment disputes behind them and focus on other relevant issues to the cause.

Occupiers plan to petition to the city council to continue their protest on the steps of Claremont City Hall.

“Unfortunately, all we’ve been able to talk about is First Amendment Rights. We haven’t had the chance to really talk about some of the issues at hand like unemployment or the rising foreclosure rate,” Mr. Vinsonhaler said. “Hopefully we can work through these issues so that we can start focusing on other important causes.” 

—Beth Hartnett

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