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Occupy Sebastopol leader arrested on threat charges

A leader in the Occupy Sebastopol movement begun last fall was arrested on a felony charge Thursday after police said he threatened a Bank of America security guard during a sidewalk encounter earlier in the day.

Chris Rockwell, 33, admitted telling the guard anyone who worked for the bank was a "criminal."

But he flatly denied what police said were threats to "shoot him and blow up the bank" — threats that Police Officer David Ginn said caused the guard to fear for his life.

Rockwell, reached by phone Friday several hours after bailing out of jail, said he was "shocked" when Ginn asked him about the alleged threats in the minutes before he was arrested.

"Honestly, I'm a militant pacifist," Rockwell said. "It is not my style."

But Ginn said the security guard reported Rockwell "walked right up to him and said, &‘You're a criminal. I'm going to come shoot you and blow up the bank.'"

Though the Occupy movement — a year-old, worldwide protest of economic and social inequality — ostensibly has no leaders, Rockwell took a vocal, leadership role in the early days of the occupation of the downtown plaza last November.

He said police quickly alerted him they knew who he was and that he was avidly posting social and political criticism online, as well as videos from the Occupy encampment then in place in Sebastopol.

The movement has since morphed and encampments demobilized, though a pop-up awning in Sebastopol's plaza still is used to promote its cause.

That's where Rockwell was arrested Thursday afternoon, several hours after walking his 8-year-old daughter to school and then, on his way back home, passing the Healdsburg Avenue branch of the Bank of America, a target of Occupy criticism.


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