'Occupy Burlington' Encampment Won't Be Allowed In Park
11/11/11 5:50PM By Patti Daniels
(Host) Burlington police say Occupy Burlington demonstrators likely won't be allowed to camp in a downtown park any longer.
Police had been taking a "wait and see" approach to protesters who have been camping in City Hall Park for two weeks. But that changed after a fatal shooting yesterday and tense exchanges last night between police and some protesters.
In a news conference today, Police Chief Michael Schirling called the encampment a risk to public safety:
(Schirling) "The overwhelming majority of people in this movement are peaceful and they've have tried very hard with the city to achieve balance and to ensure that they're doing their best to create a safe environment. It's clear that it's not completely possible to do that, we believe, with the existence of tents. And simultaneously we saw last night for the first time a few people who, we believe, were trying to incite altercations, incite the crowd to do things or to provoke a response from law enforcement."
(Host) Schirling says yesterday's fatal shooting of Josh Pfenner (Fenner) in the encampment prompted a reassessment of how to manage public safety there.
Pfenner was a transient man who police say they've interacted with on several occasions. Police say Pfenner and three others were inside a tent in City Hall Park when Pfenner pointed the gun at another man. Police say they believe he then shot himself.
Half of the park is cordoned off while police investigate the shooting.
Chief Schirling says police support the right of the Occupy protesters to demonstrate. And he says police are not using public safety as an excuse to quash that protest.
(Schirling) "The risk is not a pretext for them to move out of the park. We're happy to allow them to do activities in the park from 6 a.m. until midnight to continue to get their message out. It just has to be done in a way where we can do a better job of ensuring safety. And right now the biggest impediment to that safety is the presence of the tents." (0:17)
(Host) Police and the city have been monitoring the Occupy Burlington encampment since it began two weeks ago. Overnight camping is banned in city parks, but Schirling says police were not enforcing that rule as long as public safety was maintained.