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Occupation, Interrupted

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Last night, Camp Coyote was removed peacefully—and without arrests—from University of New Mexico campus by a force of state and university police.

Spokesperson Karen Wentworth held a press conference at the UNM Police Department station, where she said the university does not allow people to camp out. “We don’t let students stay here overnight. You’re not allowed to stay here overnight,” she said. She told protesters they could be at Yale Park between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Wentworth said Occupy Albuquerque demonstrators had been repeatedly notified over the last week. Many occupiers said they were aware the university had asked them to leave. After being removed from campus, one protester who didn’t want to give her name said “The university completely reneged on their agreement with us.”

A group trying to raise awareness about homelessness camped overnight on Johnson Field last semester. What’s the difference? Wentworth said the group “went through a pretty rigorous vetting.”

The university’s Facebook page was updated yesterday by the UNM admins to say “The Occupy Burque protesters do not have permission to camp on campus overnight.”

There were 63 comments on the post, most of which were in support of the movement. Some were vitriolic. One person wrote “Kick them out there starting to bug any ways WTF when did loitering become leagle,” and another suggested “give em the gas then bash their skulls in.”

So, a Daily Lobo reporter asked, if they were in violation of the policy then why weren’t they kicked out the first night? “We were trying to make sure they understood this was a violation,” Wentworth said. “I don’t know, maybe we were too patient.”

Desi Brown, from UNM’s Peace Studies Program, has acted as a liaison between the university and the protesters. He said last week that the group filled out a permit request to stay on campus, and under “contact information” they wrote that the only way to contact them was to come to Occupy Albuquerque’s general assembly meetings, held every day at 6 p.m. Spokesperson Wentworth said the university didn’t want to go to the general assembly meetings “because we didn’t want to seem heavy-handed.”

Protester and UNM student Jordan Whelchel said the university certainly came off that way by having the demonstrators removed. “I’d say that sending out more police officers than there were people in the park is a heavy-handed gesture, if I’ve ever seen one,” he said. “Coming to an assembly meeting to let us know some crucial information is by no means heavy-handed.”

Occupy Albuquerque moved to the parking lot of the Peace and Justice Center on the corner of Silver and Harvard to spend the rest of the night and reassembled today at UNM.

More updates to come.

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