City of Fort Lauderdale Substantially Concedes In Battle With Occupy Fort Lauderdale

The Law Offices of George Castrataro, P.A.

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

Update 2: 12/1/2011 @ 4:30PM

We have finished a two hour negotiation session with the City Manager and Attorney.  The City has conceded to nearly all of our issue and has substantially amended the originally promulgated rule to comply with our arguments.  The new rule was implemented today.  The city has eliminated the restrictions on time, place, and manner effectively negating many issues cited in our complaint.   The cities actions unquestionably demonstrate the strength and voracity of our arguments.

Specifically, the new rule ALLOWS:

1) 24 – hour occupation with no restrictions on time

2) Allows individuals to sleep on the plaza

3) Allows tarps, blankets, sheets, clothes, and other "personal articles" on City property (provided they are accompanied by a person)

Unfortunately the new rule still restricts the tents.  Later this evening the Occupy Fort Lauderdale's General Assembly will meet to address the new rule.  As such we will be proceeding to hearing tomorrow and will be arguing under a substantially smaller set of issues.

We should nonetheless see today as a substantial victory forward.  Tomorrows challenges remain substantial.

Update 1: 12/1/2011 @ 12:30PM

Occupy Fort Lauderdale has gathered for several weeks in the City of Fort Lauderdale to voice their opposition to various public policies, and to express concerns regarding the growing inequality between the rich and poor and the increasing concentration of wealth in the hands of a tiny minority.  Toward this end, they have maintained a continuous presence on the plaza of the Fort Lauderdale City Hall.

As a result of the peaceful assembly, the City of Fort Lauderdale enacted a new rule which restricts the time and mechanisms under which Occupy Fort Lauderdale could assemble on the plaza at the City Hall.  Specifically the new rule creates time restrictions upon the use of the plaza, closing the plaza nightly between 2:00AM and 7:00AM and further restricts the use of tarps, blankets, sheets, clothes, tents, canopies and other "personal articles" on City property.    The rule was enacted on November 22, 2011 and posted on the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday thereby limiting access to legal recourse for a period of five days during which the risk of arrest or citation would be ever present.  The threat of arrest, citation, and imposition of fines imposed a "chilling effect" upon individual members of Occupy Fort Lauderdale and others who now fear for their safety, liberty and economic consequences that may be imposed should they choose to exercise fundamental rights of freedom of expression, assembly and of the press.

In response to the City of Fort Lauderdale's new rules, on November 23, 2011, Occupy Fort Lauderdale and Adam Salater, filed a Emergency Complaint for Temporary Injunctive Relief (Broward Case CACE11029228) against the City of Fort Lauderdale.  An emergency hearing was granted by the Honorable Judge Marc Gold on November 23, 2011, whereupon the City of Fort Lauderdale agreed to stay the imposition of the new rule until December 2, 2011 at 12PM such that the dispute could be properly brought before the court.

On November 30, 2011, attorney George Castrataro filed an amended complaint to include further detail and memoranda of law.  Consistent with the deadline imposed by the Order and serious issues and risks imposed, Mr. Castrataro requested an emergency hearing.   The Honorable Judge Bowman agreed to a hearing set for December 2, 2011 at 3:00PM.

The parties remain optimistic as to settlement however the substance of the constitutional issues involved coupled with the deeply held principles of the Occupy Movement mandate a strong and well asserted position.  On December 1, 2011, representatives from Occupy Fort Lauderdale and their attorney George Castrataro will meet with city officials in an effort to address viable settlement.

Occupy Fort Lauderdale will hold a General Assembly meeting outside City Hall on December 1, 2011 at 5:30 to address the outcome of the settlement dialogue and discuss the emergency hearing.  Members of Occupy Fort Lauderdale and their attorney will be available following the General Assembly meeting.

For more information please contact:  The Law Offices of George Castrataro at 954-573-1444.