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No permit, no problem 

Day 53 of the occupation of Acacia Park is tentless. Where there were once permitted canvas shelters and canopies, now a few tables are manned by members of Occupy Colorado Springs.

The protesters on this Monday afternoon, however, are optimistic. One, Nicholas Galetka, says the goal is to continue the protest as is: "We are not going anywhere." He would rather be arrested, he says.

And by 1:40 p.m. that's exactly what happens, when he and about 15 other protesters set up their occupation in front of City Hall.

According to the incident report, Galetka and others arranged their tables on the City Hall steps, before moving their property to the grass. When told they were in violation of City Code, Galetka claimed ownership of the property and was placed under arrest.

The tenor of Occupy Colorado Springs had changed a day earlier, when the group's 30-day permit expired. At 11 p.m., Sunday, Colorado Springs police entered the Occupy area at the corner of Tejon and Bijou streets to inform the roughly 50 people present that the city would not renew the permit. Kristie Wheeler, one of the two permit-holders for the protest, was given an order to "remove, correct or otherwise abate" their unlawful obstruction of a public right-of-way.

The protesters were given until 1 a.m. to remove their tents, which they didn't.

Code officers then confiscated the tents, though protesters had removed their personal belongings, including food and blankets.

Joel Aigner says he and fellow Occupiers had assumed they wouldn't receive the 11-month extension they were seeking. They called the city numerous times on Friday for word, but it wasn't until CSPD showed up Sunday night to remove them that they finally had confirmation.

At some point Friday, Mayor Steve Bach actually had issued a memo stating he was installing a 45-day moratorium on revocable permits. Bach cited "possible negative impacts on general City operations and the public interest, health, safety, welfare and convenience."

City senior planner Ryan Tefertiller then wrote up a letter explaining the decision not to renew. It was sent to media and City Council early Monday morning. It also had apparently been posted on Wheeler's front door on Sunday, though she says that she see didn't see it until a reporter showed her a copy Monday.

Tefertiller cited six reasons as to why the permit would not be renewed, such as not keeping the area safe and clean, possible negative impact on downtown businesses, and the high number of police and fire calls related to the occupation.

"The number of calls for police and fire service to the area surrounding the permit site are significantly higher than the volume received for this area during the same period of time last year," he wrote.

In an e-mail, the city's chief communications officer, Cindy Aubrey, says Bach made the decision to refuse the permit extension "after extensive consultation with the City Attorney's Office and CSPD ... Wanting very much to protect First Amendment rights — Occupy Colorado Springs still has the right to protest, they just cannot erect structures or freestanding signs."

And it looks like the protest indeed will continue.

As Aigner puts it: "Occupy will continue no matter what corner of downtown we are on."

chet@csindy.com

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