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Sunday April 20th 2014

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Occupy Pensacola ‘Denied’ in Suit Against City

Occupy Pensacola was handed a defeat yesterday in its lawsuit against the city of Pensacola. The United States District Court, Northern District of Florida ruled that the city was within its right to remove tented protesters associated with the Occupy movement from the north lawn of Pensacola City Hall.

The Occupy suit argued that protesters were exercising their First Amendment Right by “occupying” the lawn, and that the tents were essential to the act. Judge Roger Vinson disagreed.

“Despite the voluminous filings by both parties in this case,” Vinson wrote in his ruling, “the dispositive question is simple and straightforward: Can the plaintiffs pitch tents and ‘occupy’ a centrally-located piece of public land for an indefinite period of time? Because there is a several decades-old ordinance that expressly prevents them from doing so, and because they have not challenged the constitutionality of that ordinance, but rather its enforcement, the city’s motion for summary judgement must be, and is granted to that extent, and plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgement must be, and is, denied.”

Alistair McKenzie, the attorney representing Occupy Pensacola and three named occupiers, said he has appealed the ruling. The attorney said he thinks the case has “a good chance in the 11th Circuit.”

“I think the First Amendment law is pretty clear,” McKenzie said.

Following Occupy Wall Street’s lead, numerous locally-affiliated Occupy camps emerged throughout the country. Occupy Pensacola began in October of 2011. It existed briefly in the middle of Martin Luther King, Jr. Plaza on Palafox Street, and then moved camp onto the lawn at city hall. The last remnants of Occupy Pensacola’s presence at city hall—which was eventually relegated to the corner sidewalk—vanished when Hurricane Isaac blew through the area in August of this year.