“Occupiers” fear new rules will force them out

TRENTON – Amid the clean lines of the statues and murals marking event timelines that make up the World War II Memorial on West State Street sits a clutter of tarps, folding chairs and plastic storage containers.

A folding table with a hand-painted, hanging Occupy New Jersey banner fronts the seemingly incongruous assemblage, as a handful of Occupy die-hards gather around in the December afternoon chill.

“It’s a 24-7 presence here. Has been for 75 days,” says Charlie Hardy, an unemployed computer manager, as he points to a hand-written sign nearby saying just that – 75 Days – in big block numbers and letters.

But Hardy and other Occupy members in Trenton are feeling as if the authorities would like the national movement’s presence here – documented in 24-hour live stream – to end sooner rather than later.

And they believe the latest regulations  proposed by the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs are aimed at just that, by way of making the demonstrators a bit more uncomfortable.

Department officials admitted that the rules were inspired by the Occupy movement’s presence, but deny that they’re aimed primarily at them

Chief Warrant Officer Patrick Dougherty, spokesman for the department, said there had been several cases of individuals abandoning personal items, such as laptop computers and tents, and there were even incidents of public urination. The department, he said, believed more rules were needed to make clear what is and what isn’t allowed at the memorial, which is primarily a public attraction.  

“The rules weren’t well defined,” he said in a telephone interview.

Occupy protesters believe the movement and its activists are the target.

“I absolutely feel that the motivation has to do with this,” says Hardy.

He recalled action by the State Police this fall forcibly removing tents, chairs and other items from what was then more of an encampment-style set-up.

“There were no rules, then they came up with arbitrary rules,” Hardy said; noting that the group went to court and won the return of their goods, though they are now prohibited from having tents on the site.

“They’re targeting Occupy Trenton,” said Harley Pollack of Robbinsville, using the group’s alternate name for the site. “Why would it all of a sudden become an issue.”

The protesters got a visit today from an ally active in the Occupy movement in Dallas.

Larry X, as he called himself, didn’t want to give his full name but said he was in agreement with his peers that, to him, it appeared the group was being targeted.

“If their purpose is to circumscribe their Constitutional rights, then they’re wrong,” he said of the authorities.

Hardy says the Occupy New Jersey group plans to soldier on at the World War II memorial despite any new rules the state authorities may come up with that may also make their presence here a little less comfortable.

“Seventy-five is not the last number,” he tells a reporter as he motions to the hand-written poster announcing the number of days Occupy has occupied the memorial site.

He said it unprompted, with some bravado in his voice.

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Proposed rules would affect protests at World War II memorial “Occupiers” fear new rules will force them out