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Duluth police chief: Occupy protesters need permit; no overnight camping will be allowed

DULUTH - Overnight camping in front of Duluth City Hall may be ending soon.

Police Chief Gordon Ramsay said Monday the group will need to get a permit to allow it to stay on the plaza. But the makeup of the camp will change. The group will be allowed just one "warming tent," Ramsay said, and no overnight camping.

Any permit would allow for gatherings during park hours only, he said. An over-night guard would be allowed.

"We are working with them to make sure everything is legal," Ramsay said.

Occupy's police liaison, Joel Kilgour, said police "gave us an outline of what they'd like to see." He said Ramsay's description Monday was "different from what I heard last week."

Kilgour said highlights of the police plan include moving into a sturdier structure, such as a canvas tent; getting a permit to stay; and ending the use of city electricity.

"We asked them last week when the Christmas lights went up," Ramsay said. "We don't want to overload the circuits."

Some use of electricity continues as the group works on a plan to move the kitchen off site, kitchen manager Jennifer Cummings said Monday.

Kilgour said the impetus was on getting a special use permit to end speculation that the group was getting preferential treatment. He thought Occupy would be allowed a few people overnight to watch the camp, not just one.

Kilgour said the specifics of the plan outlined by Ramsay on Monday probably wouldn't sit well with the camp.

Notes from Occupy Duluth's Saturday meeting state: "We have approval from the city to keep our occupation camp where it is, indefinitely, with a

review scheduled for March 21, 2012."

The minutes said the group would work on changing city ordinance about camping in public parks before working on a permit for the camp.

Ramsay said he read the minutes, and there might be a misunderstanding.

There were suggestions at the meeting that the group be allowed a medical tent, a "living room" tent and a barracks tent.

Occupy members attended the City Council meeting Monday.

Since a meeting with Ramsay and other officials last week, called under the threat that the camp was going to be shut down, more people have been gathering at the camp. There are more events there, such as guest speakers, and the group plans to march with labor groups Friday in the Christmas City of the North parade.

Occupy and the police are continuing to work with the fire department on what kind of heat source will be allowed at the camp.

Ramsay said he was thinking about a death discovered Friday at an Occupy camp in Salt Lake City. Use of a propane heater was partly blamed.

"We have to watch out for the interests of the city and the people there," Ramsay said.