Occupy Youngstown group suffers another setback

By David Skolnick



Occupy Youngstown suffered another legal setback with a magistrate denying the group’s request for a permanent injunction to allow it to re-establish an encampment on the city’s Central Square.

Magistrate Timothy G. Welsh of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court ruled that “camping overnight” is “not crucial to the survival of democracy.”

Occupy Youngstown, an offshoot of the national Occupy movement, had sought court relief based on, among other issues, protection under the First Amendment.

Despite the setback, Staughton Lynd, a retired attorney and Occupy Youngstown member who serves as its legal representative, said he expects to file an appeal today to the magistrate’s decision.

City Law Director Anthony Farris said the magistrate’s decision, filed Monday with the county clerk of courts, “is a big step in resolving the matter.”

Occupy Youngstown filed a lawsuit Nov. 16, 2011, seeking to require the city to return items seized by police five days earlier because city officials said the encampment violated city ordinances.

A request by the group for a temporary restraining order was dismissed the day it was filed.

Occupy Youngstown also withdrew its request for a preliminary injunction Jan. 19, leaving only the request for the permanent injunction.

Farris said the group has the right to protest and to seek a permit for specific events but not to set up an encampment with a tent, burn barrels and sleeping bags as it did in the fall of 2011.

“It would be catastrophic for the city to not enforce its laws,” Farris said.

Welsh wrote in his decision that “restraining the city of Youngstown from enforcing these reasonable place and manner restrictions could easily convert the [square] into a campground.”

He also wrote that granting the injunction “would disrupt public order and be significantly detrimental to the public interest.”

But Lynd said Occupy Youngstown never obstructed the sidewalk, and the square is a public location.

Occupy Youngstown had a strong presence on the Central Square for a few months before police took the encampment down — the police returned the tent it seized to its owner a few days later.

Since then, there may be a member of the group on the square every so often.

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