Occupy Fort Myers Ruling

11/15/2011

FORT MYERS, FL - Protestors in the "Occupy Fort Myers" encampment in Centennial Park in Fort Myers will be allowed to stay after a late-night ruling in federal court.

Judge John Steele granted a preliminary injunction against the the City of Fort Myers, saying it is likely the city violated the First Amendment by requiring protestors to have a permit and kicking them out of the park.

"They're on our side," said Occupy protester Jeremy Walker.

About a dozen tents were set up at the park as of midday Wednesday, and people have been staying in the park 24 hours a day - sometimes sleeping there - during the protest.

While sleeping in a public place isn't necessarily protected by the First Amendment, Steele ruled, "The conduct of tenting and sleeping in the park... is symbolic conduct which is protected by the First Amendment."

The ruling also takes up constitutional challenges to some of the city ordinances regarding use of the park. Click on the link at right to read the full text of the ruling.  The protestors paid for and received a permit from the city to have their protest in the park – but that won't be necessary anymore.

Steele ruled the First Amendment allows the protestors to stay in the park for free as long as they don't cause trouble.  The city's attorney has not yet responded to a request for comment on the ruling.

Read United States District Judge John E. Steele's 40 page ruling here.

See the whole NBC-2 story here.

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