Wisconsin News

Judge orders Occupy Madison site cleared

MADISON, Wis. -- A judge on Monday denied a temporary restraining order in Madison city officials' efforts to clear the Occupy Madison site on the near east side.

The judge's ruling said the site in the 800 block of East Washington Avenue must be cleared by noon Wednesday.

Occupy residents have set up a temporary tent city at the site, and a temporary restraining order could have allowed them to stay put at least a little while longer. While it began as a protest, the site ultimately became a tent city made up primarily of homeless people.

"I think it's some pretty good people out here," said Wesley, a homeless man living at the site. "(There are) a couple bad ones, too, but most of them are good. Everybody out here is just trying to survive."

City officials have sought to clear the site as the location is slated for redevelopment.

At Monday's court hearing, William Turner, attorney for Occupy Madison, argued that the Occupy site is a public forum for First Amendment purposes.

"The part of the argument we're trying to make here is that the right exists independent of the permit. The constitution doesn't depend on any permit between the city and the state -- that's ridiculous," Turner said.

But Judge Amy Smith disagreed.

"The First Amendment does not guarantee the right to communicate one's views at all times and at all places or in any manner that person might desire to make," Smith said.

With the restraining order denied, it's unclear what will become of Occupy Madison's lawsuit against the city.

"If they move the stuff away (from the Occupy site), we're not going to move it back. That's ridiculous," Turner said. "To what extent we will choose to continue pursuing this with the city is kind of an open question."

The late decision Monday led to leniency from law enforcement, who will allow people to stay one more night at the Occupy site.

"The plan will be tomorrow at noon. We'll go down there and check. There was a lot of compliance already for today, so we're hoping that continues for tomorrow," said Capt. Carl Gloede, of the Madison Police Department.

Officials with Porchlight, a Madison homeless shelter provider, said that they plan to open more space for the former occupants of the site who are being displaced. They said they support the closure of the site, citing a lack of services.

Calls to police have been steadily increasing to the area over the past several months, WISC-TV reported.

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