ORLANDO -- Nineteen Occupy Orlando protesters were arrested early Saturday after they refused to leave a city park after hours, Orlando police said.
The arrests happened about 2:10 a.m. at Senator Beth Johnson Park on Ivanhoe Boulevard.
On previous nights, protesters had complied with police requests that they move to sidewalks at night after the park closes.
“However, this morning a small group of them decided not to comply with the city ordinance for being in the city park after hours,” police spokesman Sgt. Vince Ogburn said via email. “The City of Orlando still respects this group’s decision to exercise their freedom of speech but we request that they adhere to the ordinances that are in place.”
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The jailed protesters were released Saturday afternoon on their own recognizance, and ordered not to come within 115 feet of the park for a year.
Despite that warning, some of the released protesters returned to the park, to applause from the several dozen people on hand.
Zeb Long, 24, was among those arrested who made a brief return.
“We were losing momentum,” Long said when asked why the 19 chose to defy police requests to leave the park. “We needed to take a stand and needed to show we’re serious about occupying the park. ... We’re a serious movement and we want change.”
“We’re not just a bunch of hippies hanging out in a park,” said Long, adding that he’s a registered Republican with a full-time job as a software developer.
Long said the arrested protesters were taken to the Orlando police station and given formal warning that they were barred from the park for a year, before being taken to the Orange County Jail.
Occupy Orlando protesters marched peacefully through downtown a week ago, and some have remained in or near the park since that time.
Organizers bill the “Occupy” movement as a protest against corporate greed, bank bailouts and government corruption.
“This is the longest unbroken protest Orlando has seen,” said Shayan Elahi, a local defense attorney who is volunteering as legal counsel for the group. He added that another march and rally is planned for Nov 5.