A city hall employee and Pensacola Police officer were tending to the corner earlier today. They directed questions to the mayor’s office.
City spokesman Derek Cosson said that a statement on the matter would be released soon. How the encampment’s removal plays into the city’s legal dealings with Occupy Pensacola—something Cosson termed as “a bit of a sensitive matter”—is not expected to be addressed in the statement.
Occupy Pensacola began camping on the lawn at city hall in the fall of 2011. After attempting to curtail the movement with ordinances, the city eventually evicted the group from the lawn and moved it to the sidewalk at the corner of Spring and Government streets.
Currently, the city is listed as the defendant in a case before the U.S. District Court Northern District of Florida. Arguing that its First Amendment rights were violated, Occupy Pensacola contends that the city did not have the authority to evict the encampment that sprung up along side likeminded gatherings across the country.
Alistair McKenzie, the attorney representing Occupy Pensacola in the case, said he wasn’t yet sure if or how the removal of the encampment would impact the legal proceedings. The attorney said he thought there was “a strong possibility” the move could carry legal ramifications.
“I think it’s strange,” McKenzie said today of the group’s removal.
The attorney said that the corner constituted the city providing a “forum” for free speech.
“Now, they’ve taken away that forum,” McKenzie said.