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St. Louis Occupy: Tents may be gone, but legal fight continues

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 18, 2012 - Ten protesters with the St. Louis Occupy movement were in court today dealing with municipal-ordinance violations stemming from their removal this fall from Kiener Plaza, where dozens occupied a tent city for weeks.

UPDATED: Lawyer Maggie Ellinger-Locke, who is representing the group, said that eight pleaded guilty to a curfew violation, one was found guilty during a brief trial and one was acquitted. The lawyer added that all fines and court costs were waived. Those who had been jailed overnight in October to given credit for time served.

The possible fines had ranged from $100 to $500, she said.

Ellinger-Locke called the result "a victory for the movement,'' since no one had to pay any money.

Many of those involved in today's proceedings have remained involved, she added. (END UPDATE.)

The Occupy activists were in the headlines for much of this fall, particularly during the World Series. Their tent city in Kiener was removed in mid-November, after failed legal attempts to stay.
Although there were some tensions and police-protester confrontations between the Occupy activists and City Hall -- particularly during the final Friday night removal -- the dealings were generally cordial without the violent incidents seen in some other cities.

Mayor Francis Slay, among others, had sought to keep the protests peaceful, while also allaying the concerns and complaints of downtown businesses who contended the occupation had been disruptive, and that the tent city had sanitation issues.

Occupy protesters had disputed the assertions. Their movement in St. Louis also was assisted by area labor groups, who helped organize rallies and marches that focused on the Occupy movement's chief message of economic inequality.

Since their ouster from Kiener, some Occupy activists have sought to keep the movement going with various local protests or gatherings. The political impact of their activities will likely depend, in part, on whether the Occupy effort kicks back into gear when the weather gets warmer -- and the political climate heats up.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.