About-face: Cops say no mass arrests for Occupy Detroit Monday night

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A letter hand-delivered to lawyers working with the Occupy Detroit movement Saturday warned that the Detroit Police Department was ready to move in and start making arrests in Grand Circus Park if campers were still there after their permit expired at 11:59 p.m. Monday night.

That appears to have changed. With representatives of the movement saying that they intend to break camp and move to a private building that’s being offered to them in southwest Detroit, Deputy Police Chief James Tolbert promised the Detroit City Council early this afternoon that there would be “no mass arrests tonight.”

That quick about-face came after a City Council meeting Monday where members complained that the permit was improperly issued by Mayor Dave Bing’s administration in the first place because it never went before the council for a vote.

Council placed the issue on its agenda for Tuesday. Some of the members present, including Council President Charles Pugh, indicated that they would be willing to officially give the occupiers some more time to tear down the camp and clean up the park they have been in since Oct. 14.

The occupiers are asking for an additional two weeks.

A meeting was scheduled for Monday afternoon between Tolbert and the occupiers. Early Monday, Tolbert said that, until that meeting was held and he heard from occupiers what their plans were, he was in no position to make any promises regarding what police would do if people remained in the park.

Less than two hours after making that statement, Tolbert, responding to a question from Pugh, gave his guarantee that there would be no mass arrests.

Unlike the violence that has erupted in some other cities where the occupy movement has taken hold, Detroit’s protests have been marked by a spirit of cooperation between protestors, city officials and the police.

In fact, attorney Julie Hurwitz, a member of the Detroit Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, which has been providing legal assistance to the occupiers, said that one of the reasons more time is needed is that Detroit police have routinely been dropping homeless people off at the camp, where a kitchen had been set up.

Tolbert, when asked if police were indeed taking homeless people to the camp, said he didn’t know but would look into the matter.

A rally in support of the occupiers will be held at the park beginning at 7:30 p.m. tonight.

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