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Chapel Hill manager finds police raid on Yates building "appropriate"

The Chapel Hill Police Department’s raid on a former downtown car dealership taken over by squatters last fall was appropriate and in the best interests of the town, according to a report released today by Town Manager Roger Stancil.

The long-awaited internal review says the goal was to remove a group that had illegally entered the former Yates Motor Co. building at 419 W. Franklin St. without injury to anyone. The building was unsafe for human occupancy and the squatters indicated they intended to stay in the building indefinitely, Stancil said in a statement.

"The actions of the on-scene police commanders on November 13 were the best decisions that could be made given the information available at the time,” Stancil said.

The Town Council is scheduled to discuss the report Monday night. Its meeting beguns at 7 p.m. in Chapel Hill Town Hall, 405 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Click the "Read More" button to see Stancil's memo:

Carrboro mayor urges non-violence at Occupy Chapel Hill march today

Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton is reminding Occupy Chapel Hill members to obey the law when they protest a local condominium board’s decision to remove a nonprofit serving area Latinos and Burmese immigrants.

“Just a quick reminder that the Abbey Court Condominium is private property,” Chilton said in a memo sent to Occupy members. “The Town Commons, Jones Ferry Road and the other streets and sidewalks adjacent are public spaces where anyone is welcome to conduct a march/protest. The Carrboro Police Department will be on hand to deal with traffic issues only.”

The homeowners association board voted 2-1 this week to give the Chapel Hill and Carrboro Human Rights Center until March 1 to find a new home. The board said the nonprofit, which runs an after-school program and offers other services, was violating its rules by operating programs in a residential setting.

Occupy Chapel Hill has a small encampment outside the Franklin Street post office and plans a 3:30 p.m. march on the Jones Ferry Road complex this afternoon. A march last month against the Nov. 13 police raid to remove occupiers of the old Yates Motor Co. building drew more than 100 people and briefly blocked traffic.

“It seems likely that if protesters cross on to Abbey Court's property that Abbey Court management will ask to have trespassers removed from their property,” Chilton said in his email. “If that happens, then as government officials we have a sworn duty to uphold North Carolina law. In that event, I promise you the Carrboro Police will respond in as calm and measured a way as possible. I want both protesters and police officers to be non-violent.”

Chilton, who supports the goals of the Occupy movement, reminded members that police “are a part of the 99% too.”

“Please bear in mind that when they carry out their job, they are only trying to feed, clothe and house their families, just like the rest of us. I guarantee that many of Carrboro's police officers share our concerns about how Abbey Court (or the whole world for that matter) is run, but that doesn't mean they can violate their sworn oath to uphold the law.”

Today in The Chapel Hill News

Here's a look at today's local headlines.

ANTI-LOITERING RULE REPEALED: The Carrboro aldermen repealed the four year-old anti-loitering ordinance affecting day laborers at Jones Ferry and Davie roads. Find out what behavior Jacquie Gist wants them to turn to next in Tammy Grubb's story.

And in today's Chapel Hill News:

COUNTY OKS ELEMENTARY: It will be the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools' 11th. Find out where it's going in staff writer Katelyn Ferral's report. Read the story here.

OCCUPY TALKS TACTICS: Don't let the balmy weather fool you. Winter's coming, and with it cold temperatures that could bring change to the Occupy Chapel Hill tent encampment outside the Franklin Street post office. I listened in Sunday afternoon, Read the story here (and see a picture of the calmest cat in Chapel Hill in today's print edition).

TOWING RULES REVISITED: The Town Council is leaing to stricter rules for towing companies after a spike in complaints. But council members aren't ready to endorse an increase in fees the towers want. Katelyn Ferral has that story here.  

Tim Tyson, J. Linn Mackey, Vincent DiSandro Jr. and Michael Czeiszberger comment on the Yates Motor occupation and police response in today's opinion pages, and the Carrboro Jaguars come oh so close in the state soccer championship.

Thanks for reading,


Chapel Hill police chief: Tactical response justified

Town officials say they were justified in using a tactical squad of officers armed with semi-automatic weapons to remove squatters from a private downtown Chapel Hill building Sunday.

At a press conference today, Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue and Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said the group was distributing riot literature and could have posed a threat to officers. The group included anarchists, some affiliated with Occupy Chapel Hill, but the group did not represent the Occupy Chapel Hill encampment downtown.

“We believe this was prudent, reasonable, and appropriate given what we knew,” Blue said.

Group occupies vacant downtown Chapel Hill car dealership

A group of “anti-capitalist occupiers,” some associated with the Occupy Chapel Hill encampment downtown, moved into a vacant car dealership on Franklin Street Saturday night.  

The group has hung banners on the former Chysler building at 419 W. Franklin St. that say “Occupy” and “Everything” from dormer windows and signs across the former showroom’s windows. 

The building owned by out-of-town businessman Joe Riddle has stood empty for many years. Demonstrators say they have moved into the space in the tradition of working-class squatters’ movements around the world that inspired the Occupy Wall Street movement and its offshoots across the United States.

The group has printed a flier that envisons a new possible use for the space that includes a free clinic, kitchen, child care, library and dormitories, among other uses. 

“This place has been a box of air for over a decade,” said Amanda Ashley of Carrboro. “That’s what capitalism does.”

 “We are not taking no anymore,” she continued. “Literally this (building) is a piece of trash. It’s a big soda bottle. We’re recycling it. How can that be wrong?”

Efforts to reach the Chapel Hill Police Department for comment were unsuccessful. Demonstrators said several police officers entered the building Saturday night but quickly left.

Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said he was unaware of the protest and would need to learn more before commenting.

A statement from the demonstrators declared the initial occupation to be the work of “ autonomous anti-capitalist occupiers,” rather than Occupy Chapel Hill, but said the effort has drawn the involvement of many Occupy Chapel Hill participants, who have been camped outside the post office on a site the town calls peace and Justice Plaza since Oct. 15.

About a dozen tents remain on the plaza. Police had previously said they did not plan to intervene as long as the demonstrators allowed access to the building.

Occupy Chapel Hill returns

Occupy Chapel Hill demonstrators returned to their post Tuesday after voluntarily taking down their tents for Halloween.

The Chapel Hill Police Department had offered to increase the number of officers outside the Franklin Street post office site Monday night to protect the encampment. But the demonstrators offered to temporarily pull up stakes, said Amanda Ashley, an Occupy Chapel Hill participant from Carrboro.

The size of the town’s Halloween crowd presents a public safety issue, Ashley said.  “Leaving eliminated us as a concern for the police.”

About 27,000 people celebrated on Franklin Street Monday night.

Look for the complete story in tomorrow's News & Observer.

See an online gallery of Occupy Chapel Hill and Durham photos

Lamont Lilly listens to the lengthy consensus-driven decision making at Sunday's Occupy Durham rally on CB Plaza. Lilly, who works two jobs and participated in Occupy Wall Street in New York City earlier this month, wanted to see decisive action taken in Durham. "This is not the energy, this is not the passion, this is not the sense of urgency," he told me as he left the plaza. "Either you make a decision and you ride with the struggle or you don't."

See more photos from this weekend's Occupy Durham and Occupy Chapel Hill events here.

Durham to ask Occupy protesters to disband encampment

A City of Durham spokeswoman says the city will ask Occupy Durham demonstrators to remove any tents remaining on downtown's CCB Plaza at 5 p.m.

A small group pitched tents on the plaza Sunday night after an afternoon rally. About 175 people attended the three-hour event to protest the concentration of wealth in American, a Supreme Court ruling letting corporations spend unlimited amounts of money on political candidates, and other issues.

"I want to create a space for people to air their grievances, to create a public square which I think has been lost in America in recent years," said Rann Bar-On, a native Israeli who said he is getting his work visa and eventually hopes to become a U.S. citizen.

In Chapel Hill, where 31 people camped out Saturday night and 19 on Sunday, police said they have no plans to disband the protesters as long as they do not block the doors of the Franklin Street post office.

Durham, howeverm only allows camping by permit at designated areas. "So the protestors can stay, but tents have to be disassembled and removed," spokeswoman Beverly Thompson said. 

"As of last night the group was in violation since they did not have a permit, but they were allowed to remain overnight since they didn’t start setting up the camp until late and after dark," Thompson said.  "Since they are still there today, the City has  asked them to remove the camp by 5 p.m.  This area is managed by Parks and Recreation, so that department would have overseen the permitting process."

110 gather for Occupy Chapel Hill 'day of resistance'

About 110 people outside the Franklin Street post office Saturday for Occupy Chapel Hill, billed by organizers as a day of resistance and occupation.

Bill Sward of Hillsborough held a simple pole with an index-card size sign that said “99 percent.” Sward lost his cabinet maker job two years ago at age 66 when the company’s work slowed.

“The people who want there to be a point don’t get the point,” he said of the broadly anti-corporate Occupy Wall Street message. “This is about living, the quality of people’s lives. The government should be helping us live. Businesses should not determine how we live.”

Participants included young anarchists, veterans of Vietnam and other protest movements and several people who said they had lost work in the past few years.

“Someone asked me what groups are here,” said Katya Roytburd, 34, a UNC-Chapel Hill researcher and one of the organizers. “I said I honestly didn’t know. We’re just representing ourselves.”

Participants broke into small groups and planned to return later Saturday to discuss next steps.

In Durham, organizers were to meet at 3 p.m. Sunday for a People’s Assembly to consider proposals for an encampment. That meeting takes places on CCB Plaza downtown.

Look for more on local Occupy Wall Street events in tomorrow's N&O and coming Wednesday in The Chapel Hill News.

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