A judge ruled Friday that Occupy Fort Lauderdale protesters can stay at a city hall plaza but must remove their tents because they are restricting access for people who use wheelchairs, their attorney said.
Judge John Bowman ruled in the early evening that the protesters do have a First Amendment right to demonstrate at the plaza and can stay 24 hours a day, but their tents were a technical violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, said George Castrataro, the attorney for Occupy Fort Lauderdale. The tents must be gone by Sunday, he said.
Castrataro said he was surprised and pleased that the judge ruled the protesters can stay, even if their eight tents cannot. The tents are on the periphery of the plaza.
Just before Thanksgiving, the City of Fort Lauderdale passed a rule that would restrict access to the plaza outside city hall where members of the Occupy movement have set up camp, but group members had said they weren't leaving.
The city said it was instituting a rule that would keep the plaza closed from 2 a.m. to 7 a.m. , but that was postponed until Friday's hearing.
Meanwhile, the Miami-Dade County Physical Plant Manager Juan C. Silva sent Occupy Miami protesters a letter saying the county hasn't gottten a permit application regarding their protest, and they have until 5 p.m. on Dec. 9 to remain on the West Lawn. If the county needs the West Lawn for another activity, the protesters will be given 48 hours to leave the area.
The letter also said that Occupy Miami should submit a weekly permit application to make sure it can continue to protest on the West Lawn.
'We do have a permit, but it had an indefintie end date," said Bruce Wayne, the social media coordinator for the Occupiers. "We are hoping to stay within the realm of compliance."