FORT MYERS, Fla. - The Occupy Fort Myers group is moving to a new location at least for a few days. Around 8:00 Wednesday night, the group packed up and left Centennial Park, headed for the old courthouse. It's part of a deal with the city to make room for this weekend's "Taste of the Town." But they say they'll be back on Monday.
For weeks, Centennial Park has been home to a group of Southwest Floridians, protesting what they call corporate greed and corruption. But with the annual "Taste of the Town" approaching, city officials called a meeting with a member of Occupy Fort Myers.
"We just have to make sure that everyday in the park, the public, or the group are safe," Public Works Director Saeed Kazemi said.
Kazemi asked the group to pack up and leave by 10:30 Wednesday night, so the park could be cleaned and prepared. It's a compromise, he said. Starting Monday, the city agreed to offer Occupy Fort Myers a permit for the park, which they can re-apply for every ten days.
"We can go inspect," Kazemi said. "If they are cooking inside, if they have a fire extinguished. We are going to have it every ten days because we want to make sure that other events, it doesn't interfere with."
But Occupy member Matthew McDowell, who attended the meeting, left with mixed feelings. "They've actually been telling us from day one that we'd be able to get the permit as soon as we had the insurance, so I don't think it's a compromise," McDowell said. "I think a compromise would be working with us from the beginning and not breaking the state laws in regards to breaking our First Amendment rights."
The group met a few hours later, and after a brief discussion, the tents came down, popping back up at the old county courthouse at least, until Monday.
"Ultimately, it's going to be the best move because for one, we're going to stay downtown," Occupy member John Scott said. "We'll be over here in the middle of everything and people can still come by and see us and still find out what we are all about."
The group took some time to tidy up the park before leaving. Although Occupy Fort Myers will not be camped out at Centennial park this weekend, they still plan to have a presence there, wearing shirts or holding signs. However, they say, they don't plan to be a distraction or take away from those supporting local businesses.