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EXCLUSIVE: Infrared Cameras Show Occupy is Vacant at Night

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Since October 15, Occupy Providence activists have claimed as long as corporate greed still rules the day—they’ll stay in Burnside Park indefinitely. But a study by the Providence Police department suggests when the going gets tough (or, when day becomes night), the Occupiers get going.

According to Lindsay Lague, spokeswoman for Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare, police used state-of-the-art infrared technology last week to survey how many tents at Burnside Park were actually being occupied. The results may surprise some people.

Just seven tents were actually “occupied” at Burnside Park Lague said. There are usually anywhere from 50-70 tents at Burnside Park on a nightly basis.

“There were seven tents that were occupied, that much we know. But we cannot be sure how many people were actually in each tent,” said Lague.

Trying to End Peacefully

Commissioner Pare has said that the protesters cannot remain at Burnside Park indefinitely. Two weeks ago, Pare told reporters that Providence Police Officers have observed level-3 sex offenders at the location on more than one occasion. Pare also produced a series of ordinances which he said demonstrated that the protesters were in violations of those laws.

That same week, Pare personally handed out eviction notices at the park, but promised that the department would not be using force to evict the protesters. Despite being at odds, the two sides have had what almost looks like a cozy relationship at times, with Pare going to far as to tell the protesters that he understands their frustrations.

Asked why the police department didn’t start removing unoccupied tents at the park, Lague said that the Police Department is trying to avoid a violent confrontation—which has been the case in other parts of the country, most notoriously in Oakland.

“We’re trying to end this. But we’re trying to end this peacefully. I don’t know that [removing tents] would be the way to achieve that goal,” said Lague.

Occupy Spokesman Disputes Claim

The protesters never applied for, and obviously never received a permit for their protest. Large groups organizing a protest are normally required to apply for a permit in Providence. But the city never actually told the Occupy protesters that they couldn’t be there.

Reached by phone Tuesday, Occupy Providence spokesman Mike McCarthy, a well-spoken former Navy medic and Afghanistan veteran, took issue with the notion that Occupiers are not really spending the night at the park.

“There are definitely unoccupied tents here,” said McCarthy. “But there are certainly more than seven tents that are occupied.”

McCarthy estimated that there are about “three to four times” the amount of tents than the Providence Police Department found during their survey last week. McCarthy said the group at Burnside Park is actually working on a program to remove tents that are not being occupied.

Some of the protesters stay up all night, he said, which explains why there aren’t as many people sleeping in tents as one might expect.

“There are a lot of die-hard folks who stay up and talk about issues all night,” said McCarthy.

No Plans to Leave Park

A common notion concerning the Occupy Protesters, specifically in the northern parts of the nation, has been that the protesters will pack up and go home once the weather gets bitterly cold. The average temperature in January and February in New England is routinely in the twenties and a snowstorms dropping more than two-feet of snow are common.

But what if Occupy Protesters are picking up and heading back to their apartments every night, leaving their tents and waiting for their gathering the next day?

McCarthy denied that that is their plan.

“That is definitely not our strategy, and it has never crossed our minds,” he said.

In any event, McCarthy said that so far as he’s concerned, the group is not going anywhere. They have no plans to leave the park and have organized “working groups” to come up with issues that the protesters will focus on in the future

McCarthy said the protesters work hard to make sure the park remains a safe place under their watch, and that it remains clean and sanitary. McCarthy even noted that the group has its own program to take down tents that haven’t been occupied for several evenings continuously. He said the groups seems to be bringing more people into the fold on a daily basis.


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Is this part of the campaign described by Mahatma Gandhi "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you , (but) then you win" so we're in the 'laughing at you' stage? I support these people. Even if they were off getting a shower somewhere, does that mean they have lost their enthusiasm and commitment? NO! I commend them, and I was especially proud of them when the young drunk kid went wild. The Occupy group handled that beautifully.

Comment #1 by Suzy More on 2011 11 09

Time to get these people a one way ticket to Cuba. No Wall Street corruption there!


Comment #2 by ed curtis on 2011 11 09

I find it ironic that this group sits in the middle of providence protesting the corruption that exists elsewhere.

Comment #3 by michael riley on 2011 11 09

@suzy - indeed!
@ed - typical.
@michael - corruption ELSEWHERE? now, that's ironic.

Comment #4 by Ned Rivers on 2011 11 09

@Suzy--I support them, too. These activists are fighting for the American Dream, I will stand with them and help them whenever and where ever I can.

@Michael--Yeah, I found that comment about "corruption elsewhere" to be the height of irony, too. And the Cuba comment was offputting in it's simplicity.

Comment #5 by Melissa Martin Ellis on 2011 11 09

Poor little elitist Occupiers.

Too cold? Go to your parents' paid for apartment on the East side.

Hungry? Get the union supplied food for free.

Hey - occupiers, the system is so bad but you parasites sure know how to abuse it.


Comment #6 by ed curtis on 2011 11 09

These occupiers are a joke. If they had a clue about what is going on they'd be marching on Washington. The fact is, they are too stupid to understand the dynamics of the problem. They retreat to their cozy homes on the East Side and then come back in the morning to feign indignation - if it's not raining. What a bunch of phonies!

Comment #7 by Matt Cavanagh on 2011 11 09

This whole story is somewhat worrisome--regardless of the factual integrity of the infrared "survey." In Kyllo vs. the United States (2001) it was ruled that police use of infrared devices to survey the interior of private property constituted unreasonable and illegal search. Regardless of if the police were "just checking", this action, if verifiable, is disturbing and borderline illegal.

Comment #8 by Depa Slatter on 2011 11 09

This pathetic "action" is right out of the "Rules for Radicals" and has nothing to do with "social justice" in my opinion. It's anarchy at its' clearest modern form. This is how it works:
Step 1: Threaten and disturb the electorate
Step 2: Invade and make impossible demands
Step 3: Provoke violence to be viewed as the "victim" by sympathetic mainstream media types.
Step 4: Sue the municipality using media coverage as 'evidence'.
Step 5: Settle out of court.
Repeat until you bankrupt a municipality already on the brink.

When will us Rhode Islanders reach maturity? This is childish and it's growing old. I don't appreciate having to PAY FOR the DAMAGE to the park and all other congruent costs otherwise unnecessary.

Comment #9 by Paul Marshall on 2011 11 09

I frequently drive through Kennedy Plaza a little before 9 AM and haven't noticed many people at the Occupy site.Usually there are some vendors and a lot of working people waiting for buses,i.e. life going on as usual.The place has a deserted look early in the morning.
I haven't been through there at midday so I don't know what it looks like later on.
The coziness between the mayor's office and the Occupy group may be attributable to the fact that Miriam Weizenbaum and mayoral adviser/liaision Matt Jerzyk used to work in the same law frim.

Comment #10 by joe bernstein on 2011 11 09

Unless of course they had a warrant to do so, which I doubt for any number of reasons.

Comment #11 by Depa Slatter on 2011 11 09

I should have mentioned Ms.Weizenbaum is the pro-bono legal counsel for the Occupy Providence movement.
This IS Rhode Island after all.

Comment #12 by joe bernstein on 2011 11 09

Depa-look up the open fields doctrine.
The Occupy people are on a site accesible to the public,therefore no warrant is needed t chek things out.
Also look up Delgado vs.INS,a Supreme Court decision that states one has no expectation of privacy in a place open to the public(in Delgado it was a bar)and therefore,in the Delgado case,INS agents had the right to enter the premises and question people without a warrant.

Comment #13 by joe bernstein on 2011 11 09

@joe bernstein I was considering that, but it seems like a tent may be slightly more private, though it is in a public space. I.e., that would justify going into anyone's tent who was sleeping in a public camping area. Not sure, though.

Comment #14 by Depa Slatter on 2011 11 09

@joe bernstein I guess it could be argued that they are technically sleeping there illegally, which may override both issues.

Comment #15 by Depa Slatter on 2011 11 09

@Depa-I'm not sure about actually entering a tent-I'm not an attorney-the trespassing issue may allow it,but who knows?The infrared scan is not really invasive-it only shows human presence,so it's like using binoculars to view people in a public place.
There's a whole area of law on what constitutes invasive surveillance,with lots of contradicting policies and case law.

Comment #16 by joe bernstein on 2011 11 09

Typical RI mentality of leave them alone, RI politicians have more important things to do (for their own self serving needs).

Comment #17 by Gary Arnold on 2011 11 09

@ed curtis. So, if we have the Bill of Rights, we're not allowed to use it? If we use it and believe in it, we're traitors to the USA and need to go where government restricts citizen participation? How can anyone misunderstand the Bill of Rights so thoroughly? YOU go to Cuba, if you don't like citizen participation - you'll be more comfortable there.

Comment #18 by Suzy More on 2011 11 09

And to the oh-so-ironic comment about the East Side kids - they have no right to participate because they're all rich? How delusional can you be? I know one man who's been at the Occupy site from the beginning - not rich, not from a well-off family, no college, but has a small apartment in Fox Point. OOOOO, let's not let him speak! I suggest you go there, speak calmly and respectfully to a multitude of people and make up your own mind rather than have the media make it up for you.

Comment #19 by Suzy More on 2011 11 09

@ paul marshall, I think you mean "we" Rhode Islanders.

Comment #20 by Travis Yowley on 2011 11 09

@ Suzy - the American Dream? Since when has the American Dream become "sit on your butt and whine about how you willingly got yourself into debt and now demand everyone else pay your bills?" With your statements you have proven to be as ignorant as they are as to what the American dream REALLY is - which is EVERYONE has the chance and opportunity to get what they want through HARD WORK, AMBITION, SELF-RELIANCE and DRIVE. There are NO GUARENTEES that one will actually attain their dreams, there are no guarentees that one will prosper, but all can TRY. "This isn't fair, that isn't fair...wwahhhhhh". Like my dad always told me: "Life isn't fair - too bad. Suck it up and move on!"

Comment #21 by C B11 on 2011 11 09

Poor Suzy living in her little dream world.

NOWHERE did I say they are not allowed the same rights as anyone else to speak their mind.

However, if these "Occupiers" have so much hatred of the current system,and want to tear it down, they also have the right to MOVE to a place where everyone is equal. Equally living in poverty, lack of freedom and under a dictator as in Cuba. There's a place where you liberals can "live the dream" where all citizens are equal.


Comment #22 by ed curtis on 2011 11 09

Someone should put a sign up while they're gone: FREE TENTS FOR THE HOMELESS

Comment #23 by C B11 on 2011 11 09

I think it is hilarious how the Providence Police Department pays a lot of money for "state-of-the-art infrared technology", yet they can't train more police officers to test for DUI's -- how about getting all of those drunks off the road instead of doing a head count on some tents?

Comment #24 by Anne Demeter on 2011 11 09

SUZY, these people are fighting for the American Dream?????

Funny, I'm living "the dream" and never once camped out and protested. I was too busy working the job I had and raising the family I was proud of.

You keep fighting for your "Dream / nightmare"

Comment #25 by pearl fanch on 2011 11 10

Same here, Pearl, same here....

Comment #26 by C B11 on 2011 11 10

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