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Occupy Las Vegas group seeks county locale for protest site

Occupy Las Vegas - Fremont Street

Sam Morris

Hundreds of marchers take part in Occupy Las Vegas on the Fremont Street Experience on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2011.

Occupy Las Vegas - Fremont Street

A participant taking part in Occupy Las Vegas carries a sign on the Fremont Street Experience on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2011. Launch slideshow »

Occupy Las Vegas hits Fremont Street

KSNV coverage of Occupy Las Vegas rally on Fremont Street, Oct. 15, 2011.

Beyond the Sun

The speed with which Occupy Las Vegas has organized and the anxiety it is creating as it seeks places to occupy and protest from now until the end of the 2012 general election came through clearly Tuesday.

At the end of a seven-hour Clark County Commission meeting, four members of the group spoke during the public-comment period.

The grass-roots group is an extension of Occupy Wall Street, born in New York a month ago over disgust with corporate influence in government, exemplified by billions in taxpayer dollars to bail out banks while the remaining “99 percent” of America continues to suffer economically.

Addressing commissioners, the four said they want to work with the county to figure out which public park can be used for them to gather. They tried to lease space, said Kristal Glass, but were denied. Glass said they were advised by government officials “to seek a sympathetic land tycoon, even though some of these landowners are part of the cause of our current economic situation.”

“It is another way of saying our government no longer works for the people but works solely for the wealthy,” Glass said.

Now they want to work with the county. But if it doesn’t work, Glass said the group is prepared to occupy a park without being sanctioned by the government. The resulting nightly arrests by police “will be mass-televised to the state and the nation,” she added. “Please be wary of excuses like the cost of replacing grass. This will be a drop in the bucket when considering the overall cost of bad publicity or police action.”

Commissioners Chris Giunchigliani and Steve Sisolak had talked earlier in the week to Occupy Las Vegas and asked that county staff work with them on finding space for protests and gathering. Giunchigliani said ordinances prohibit overnight stays in parks but she is asking staff to make an exception.

“We want to do it right,” she added.

Another of the four speakers, Johnathan Abbinett, said the Las Vegas group consists of 350 core members along with another 4,000 people.

The group told commissioners it wants to promote:

• Effective campaign finance reform “so corporations have no advantage over us.”

• A justice system that treats everyone equally.

• An end to the continued attack on social safety nets and unions.

• Investments in sustainable entities such as schools and libraries.

Abbinett implored Sisolak to work fast in finding a location for the group to assemble, and then whispered — loud enough for others to hear — that fringe right-wing groups such as the American Nazi Party, the Ku Klux Klan and skinheads were wanting to participate in Occupy Las Vegas but were being rebuffed by organizers.

“I’m trying to keep the peace, I’m trying to keep this from blowing up,” Abbinett said. “Remember Watts of ’68, Steve? You remember Watts.”

Sisolak: “This has got to be peaceful.”

Abbinett: “I’m telling you, absolutely! Metro Police has been fantastic. This Thursday, the general assembly will make a final decision” on whether and where to assemble.

Sisolak: “I’m telling you it’s not going to get a lot accomplished if this gets ugly in two days.”

Abbinett: “If they decide the Clark County amphitheater was paid for by taxpayers dollars and they are the ‘99 percent,’ and they don’t have time for B.S. bureaucracy, and they show up in the thousands, all I can say is guess what: the citizenry decided.”

Sisolak: “As long as it stays peaceful, if it gets ugly on Thursday, that’s going to be a bad thing … Are these all local people?”

Abbinett: “Yes! My god, they’re Americans. They’re Nevadans.”

Sisolak: “I just don’t want it to get out of hand.”

Abbinett: “Hopefully they’ll be in a good mood.

Sisolak: “It’s an enormous amount of logistics to work out — safety, health concerns, port-a-potties.”

Abbinett: “We are trying to do it the right way. But these are people, some haven’t even registered to vote, who have no idea who their city councilman is. They’re just citizens. And they’re fed up.”

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