The Occupy Santa Rosa movement has moved to a new level of .<TH>.<TH>. well, we're not sure what to call it. Whatever it is, it's confusing — even more muddled and muddy than before. And it's unlikely to be made any less convoluted by what happened overnight.
Nine days ago, protesters were applauding City Council members for a plan that would allow protesters to peaceably assemble and camp on the lawn out front of City Hall under a permitting process being developed by the city.
But when it came time to register for those permits, everything began to unravel.
The tendency of protesters, lo and behold, is to protest. And in protest over the city's requirements for issuing the permits, most boycotted the process.
As a result, the city began issuing permits only to those who really wanted them, most of whom, as it turns out, are homeless. The city had expected to issue 57 camping permits, but seeing what was happening, they drew the line at 29 and stopped issuing them.
Then late in the week, police began pinning notices to tents — those without permits — that they would be evicted.
Meanwhile, some homeless campers with permits were left waiting for those without permits to vacate their camping spots. In at least one case, a fight broke out. In other cases, homeless people were just left, well, more homeless.
Meanwhile, demonstrators expected the police to arrive and start evicting people on Thursday night, but the night passed uneventfully. Police again were expected to show up at some point late Friday or early today.
But what makes the situation more awkward in Santa Rosa is that police would only be removing about half of the campers. So if these permits are not going primarily to Occupy folks, what exactly is being accomplished by allowing this encampment, which still requires police supervision, port-a-potty service, etc.?
It's not clear. But it appears that the city is locked into allowing at least some people to camp on the City Hall lawn for the next 11 days, which is how long the permits are good for.
It's unfortunate that the Occupy Santa Rosa people were not willing to go along with the permitting process that the city had provided for this situation. While protesters are being evicted all over the nation, from Wall Street to Portland, Ore., and Oakland, Santa Rosa had the opportunity to become a model where the occupy movement could exist in peace.
But at some point rules are needed — as well as people willing to follow them. It's still not clear whether either exist at this point. If the demonstrators can't work things out with one another and the city by Nov. 30 — when these permits are set to expire — they will have overstayed their welcome.