City judge deals blow to Occupy Richmond

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – If it's after dark, you can't be in the park. That's the way it's been, and that's the word, again, Monday from a Richmond judge.

The ruling comes several months after local anarchists camped for more than a week at Richmond's Monroe Park. It's also a major blow to the ongoing Occupy Richmond movement.

If you've never seen the Wingnut Anarchist Collective, maybe you've heard of it. Back in March, members were arrested for setting up camp in support of the city's homeless. Daniel "Ozzie" Fargason was there

"I don't think the city likes us, specifically," he said, speaking of city leaders.

Fargason was later convicted, along with eight others, of violating a city rule that says you can't stay in a public park after sunset. The anarchists, however, suspect the fight is more personal than that.

"If there was a bunch of people in suits hanging out in the park after dark, I don't think cops would mess with them as much," he said.

Prosecutors disagree. They say it's fine to express your first amendment rights, you just have to do it during the day.

Chris Toepp is an assistant commonwealth's attorney.

"We have to protect the integrity of the parks at night to keep everyone safe," Toepp said.

The ruling is a blow not only to the anarchist group, but also to Occupy Richmond, which had been occupying Kanawha Plaza downtown until the protestors were forcibly evicted last month.

Their alternative? Private property, that just-so-happens to be next door to the city's mayor, Dwight Jones. Not that it's their first choice.

"I wish it could be more visible, and that's why I want to get our park back. I want to get, at least, a park back," said Occupy Richmond member Greggory Hat.

Not anytime soon, ruled the judge. For now, city law is upheld.

"Hopefully now we've established a local precedent, that that's good law," Toepp said.

Occupy Richmond says things are "going great" near the mayor's house, and they plan to stay a while. As for the anarchists, they're considering an appeal.

Violators of the city park ordinance face fines in the range of $25 to $50.

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