Orange County city council unanimous: Occupy tents are a form of speech

A five-hour Irvine, Orange County, CA city council meeting ended with the council unanimously agreeing that the Occupy tents on the town hall's lawn were a form of free speech and vowing to "add the needs of 'The 99%' to their official agenda." Afterwards, the mayor asked the protesters if they needed any more blankets.

The council members each spoke in turn to the civility, articulateness and peaceful process represented by the Irvine Occupation at contrast with the several other Occupational Villages in California, which were, at that very moment being tear-gassed. The general sentiment being: 'This is quite clearly the model. And the occupation most in tune with city needs.'

One councilman stated clearly, 'I disagree with most of what you're saying. But you've clearly shown that this is an issue of free speech. So if you need to sleep on our lawn, by all means, sleep on our lawn.'

Shortly after, a motion was brought to the council to grant license to the occupiers to occupy the public space overnight citing the unusual form of the movement. (Another first in council history.)



  1. It’s hard to avoid noting the contrast with how local government reacted to the Occupy Oakland protests. Moral: if you don’t want to get beat up by cops, live in a reasonably affluent area with a bunch of other white people.

  2. That’s a pretty darn enlightened attitude.

    most people would have gone to “i disagree with most of what you’re saying” full stop.

  3. I think Orange County will find that this is a much lower cost option. Good use of taxpayer dollars. 

    I wonder how much the police action in Oakland cost. I’m sure bussing those extra cops in from Palo Alto and elsewhere wasn’t cheap.

    We need to get the message across to city governments that evicting Occupy events is not cost effective.

    Of course you’d expect that they might also remember constitutional law and all that stuff about peaceable assembly.

    1. I’m sure bussing those extra cops in from Palo Alto and elsewhere wasn’t cheap.

      Why would it be expensive to kiss a large number of law enforcement employees?

  4. As stated above, this is the Irvine City Council.  There’s no such thing as an Orange County City council.

    Irvine is a very wealthy police state unto itself.  The council members couldn’t care less about free speech issues.  They just don’t want a riot on their well-manicured hands.  Plus, they’ve got more than enough dough to replace the grass.  Much cheaper than lawsuits brought on by the police cracking skulls.

    1. Svenksi nails it.  I  live and work in Irvine and my wife was at the city council meeting. 

      “The Republic of Irvine,” as it’s known in OC political circles, is the only city in Orange County with a Democratic majority. Irvine voted for Obama.  The Irvine Democratic “base” IS the  well-scrubbed upper-middle class white folks running the “Occupy OC” effort.  The city council meeting was a long winded chat amongst friends. (Larry Agran, our local Boss Tweed, is famously long winded).

      Property Values drives every decision made in Irvine.  There is NO WAY anyone on the Irvine  city council is going to do anything to antagonize well-behaved photogenic white people.

      Helpfully, the Occupy OC folks have been scrupulously good neighbors, taking down their structures at night, obeying noise ordinances, and generally being the kind of person your supposed be in Stepford (er, Irvine).

      My wife plans to bake them cookies.

        1. but Irvine will come down hard if you paint your house any other color than beige.

          Calumny.  With mine own eyes I’ve seen Irvinian homes spanning the spectrum from “taupe” to “desert sand” to “putty” to “ecru.”  They even encourage a range of indescribable pale-brown/off-white hues that evoke the stirring spirit of lightly cinnamoned oatmeal.

      1. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were just photogenic white people at the protest… however, there are *tons* of Asians living in Irvine. Just want to throw that out there as while the general picture of Irvine that’s been painted by the various comments here is accurate (I lived there for a few months over the summer), there’s a lot more diversity than is being suggested.

        Of course in my experience there, the Asians are almost always srs bzns *at all times* – it’s a really rather bizarre city-wide confirmation of a stereotype (compare to Westminster/Garden Grove – even more Asians by %, though mostly Vietnamese compared to Irvine’s Chinese and Koreans – which is almost the opposite in srsness).

    1. You know, I’m getting sick of people seeing the dark presence of “the man”  in everything.

      If the city  didn’t do this someone would yell and throw a fit that the place is full of fascists.

      Instead they go and do something much better than the vast majority of other cities in the country and they still get slagged. 

      Give them a little f-ing credit for once.

      1. Credit should go where credit is due, of course.

        But the point is this: isn’t it a little sad that rather than being grateful for being listened to and worked with, rather than being grateful for the opportunity to make any actual progress, we are asking the protesters to be grateful for being allowed to exercise their rights without being beaten up and arrested?

        We’re all happy that nobody got thrown in jail, but it’s worth recognizing that it’s not exactly a victory for anyone.

      2. and I, good sir, am sick and tired of people building strawmen in front of me.

        What are you on about, and what does it have to do with what I said?

        Are you certain you got my point, about how the protesters are usually discredited, and it was nice to see the opinion of a democratic body for once.

        Are you sure? because I think you make have jumped to several dozen incorrect conclusions about my viewpoint.

        1. Dammit…Sorry, @mdhatter03:disqus

          I replied to the wrong person/quote. It was Svenski, the comment above you, that I was referring to.

          That’s what I get for using a mobile device and pushing reply.. :(

  5. I can’t believe that Oakland is getting the fascist two-step while Irvine is acting all enlightened.  That ain’t right.

    Maybe it’s the location. If Occupy OC was putting their tents at the Irvine Spectrum, then there’d be trouble.

    1. Bingo.  The Occupy OC folks wouldn’t last 30 minutes at the Spectrum because, as a mall, it’s “Private Property.” Donald Bren can be quite heavy handed.

       If Occupy OC  wants to kick it up a notch,  confronting the 20th richest man in America with an  Occupy the Spectrum is EXACTLY what they should do.

  6. I have to say, loved reading this. Thank you BB. It’s easy to be cynical – and I’ve been right up there (as you may have noticed). So many things I see seem to point to selfishness and greed winning out. But every now and again, something like this comes along which makes you realise that people are on the whole good, kind and caring. There is still hope for the world. Every day I walk down the street and meet wonderful, lovely people. I just wish they (we!) were in charge of the world. Oh yes, and Noam Chomsky for World President!

    1. The thing is, people in a pessimistic state of mind tend to think more about short term survival and less about long term plans.

      American politics is about dividing people against each other.  If you can crush their optimism with fear, they will be less likely to behave altruistically and they will be more likely to see their neighbors as competitors rather than allies.

      My point is, just maintaining a positive outlook is important to our success.

      If they can sew the seeds of doubt and fear, then the lizard brain takes over, and the country goes back to sleep.

  7. I certainly prefer this to the Oakland treatment, but there are so few underprivileged here in Irvine that they can’t be much of a threat, so I’m a little concerned the protesters are being used to generate good PR for the city council here, who aren’t exactly known for their progressive attitudes toward wealth.  It’s an open secret that the reason one doesn’t see homeless people in Irvine is that the police pick them up in patrol cars and shove them out in Santa Ana, with a $20 bill.

    1. Or the fact that getting a bench installed at a bus stop nearly requires an act of God.  Don’t even think about proposing an actual shelter for the tens of thousands of non-whites that come to Irvine every day to clean our houses, scrub our restaurants, and care for our children.

      Here in Irvine it’s very much the 5% bitching about the 1%.
      (but that does make for exceptional public schools 8)

  8. We were talking about the tents here in Montréal today in my sculpture class, my prof said everyone should go and at least see them. Seeing them as free speech falls in line with this suggestion, I think. ( Last number I heard was that there are 300 tents here.) Problem is, WINTER IS COMING. :( Maybe there is a way to make tents more robust for the winter…

  9. “The council members each spoke in turn to the civility, articulateness and peaceful process represented by the Irvine Occupation at contrast with the several other Occupational Villages in California, which were, at that very moment being tear-gassed. ”

    Yes, shame on those Occupiers in Oakland, who for some reason seem unable to be civil while they’re being teargassed. Hell, one of them is so inarticulate that you might think he was in a coma in the hospital.

  10. “So if you need to sleep on our lawn, by all means, sleep on our lawn”

    This shocked me, hearing it come from Irvine.  It may not seem like much to people who don’t know the area, but “it’s OK to mess up our lawn” in Irvine is equivalent to “it’s OK to take a dump in our living room” in other places.  City loves its lawns.

    1. Nobody said it was okay to mess anything up. Have you considered the reports of how messy and nasty the protests are might be…. exagerated? And that people are entirely capable of being polite and living with a small footprint while BEING NEIGHBORLY in the name of a cause?

      All the comments slanted from the viewpoint that the protesters are just a bunch of dirty hippes, that’s what I am sick of.

      If you never expect better, you’ll never recognize it. 

      1. That’s not at all what I’m talking about.  In Irvine, “walking on the lawn” is tantamount to “messing up the lawn.”  I’m saying that the gesture of “you can sleep on our lawn” is a much bigger gesture by the city of Irvine than it may appear on the surface.  It’s like letting a stranger borrow your classic Mustang to drive a friend to Burning Man.

  11. A unanimous vote by a city council on a hot issue might be the hidden news here. Absolutely think it’s pretty cool they’re letting them stay, but Tents are Free Speech is just an inch from Tents are a Human Right and even less to We Want Free Tents.

    1. ….but Tents are Free Speech is just an inch from Tents are a Human Right and even less to We Want Free Tents.

      Then you must be a HUGE opponent of the idea that corporate political contributions are free speech, because that would be the fast lane to Free Money For Everybody. I never had you pegged as a Communist.

    2. …Tents are Free Speech is just an inch from Tents are a Human Right and even less to We Want Free Tents.

      Just like the “free pornography is a human right” movement?

  12. There is a famous court case where it was decided that having tents up was a form of free speech, but sleeping in them was not allowed.   (Clark v Community for Creative Nonviolence, 1984).  It will be interesting to watch what happens in Irvine if and when the articulate, considerate protesters get joined by less likable people.   Occupy Irvine would do well to institute a strict code of conduct and oust anyone not keeping to it.   Other Occupation locations have been marred by a few people stealing, using alcohol or drugs, being violent, or not using toilets.   

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