Protesters involved with the Occupy Merced movement were asked by Merced County sheriff's deputies late Tuesday to leave Courthouse Park.
A handful of protesters have remained at the park since Saturday's rally. Sheriff's spokesman Tom MacKenzie said deputies asked the protesters camping in the park to leave, at the request of the Merced County Parks and Recreation Department.
Paul Fillebrown, who oversees county parks as director of Merced County's public works department, said the county didn't want a conflict between protesters and participants of another event scheduled for Wednesday at the park. A disability awareness event had been scheduled for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. According to Barbara Hurtado, a program manager at Central Valley Regional Center, more than 200 disabled adults were planning to participate in the event.
"I think our only concern was that the protesters don't interfere with the event," Fillebrown said.
And so far, they haven't. They simply moved out of the way to allow the event to proceed without conflict, said Floid Pitts, one of the protesters.
Occupy Merced branched out of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which started last month as demonstrations against corporate greed and economic disparity and has since spread to cities around the world. About 200 people attended Saturday's rally at Courthouse Park, and the group has maintained a small presence every day at the park
Pitts, a junior at UC Merced, said the group slept on the sidewalk after talking with deputies Tuesday night.
"The police department and sheriff's department aren't harassing us or anything," Pitts said.
Courthouse Park, like other parks, closes to public access at 10 p.m. Camping in parks isn't allowed, Fillebrown said, but said the county didn't take any action until Tuesday because of the scheduled event. MacKenzie said deputies also asked various homeless people who were sleeping in the park to leave the area.
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