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Authorities said 20 protesters were arrested at about 12:45 a.m. Friday when they refused to leave Cesar Chavez Plaza, the site of the Occupy Sacramento demonstration.
Both police and protesters described the arrests as peaceful.
“They went without any problems or issues,” said Sgt. Andrew Pettit, spokesman for the Sacramento Police Department. “They were booked for failure to disperse after a lawful order.”
Anthony Bondi, a spokesman for Occupy Sacramento, agreed.
“It was completely violence-free,” he said Friday afternoon. “The protesters laid down and chose to be arrested.”
Despite what some protesters said they think was an overbearing police presence, Pettit said units involved were either on patrol already or “flexed” their hours to take part in the arrests.
“We had two SWAT teams, the entertainment team and three graveyard teams,” he said, noting that about 40 officers were involved.
The entertainment team is a unit that normally deals with drunken driving and enforcement of laws associated with entertainment venues such as nightclubs, he added.
The protesters who were arrested were booked into the Sacramento County Main Jail, and Bondi said supporters marched to the jail Friday morning.
“Everyone is out now,” he said. “A couple have come back (to Cesar Chavez Plaza).”
Officers making arrests donned riot helmets, which Bondi said seemed excessive.
“I do believe that the police were a little bit overkill with the riot gear,” he said. “I mean, you can’t get less violent and more peaceful than (the demonstrators) were.”
Pettit acknowledged the nonviolent nature of those arrested but said wearing the gear is a standard procedure to ensure the officers are protected in case the situation turns violent.
“It was a precautionary measure,” he said. “They were nonviolent, but it’s to protect our officers in case someone else comes in and gets aggressive.”
He added that officers carry their riot gear in their vehicles at all times, so no specialized units needed to be called in.
The occupation has been in place since Thursday morning, when Sacramentans took part in the nationwide trend.
One of the common questions raised by those observing the occupation has been what the activists’ objective is – and that’s a question the activists themselves are pondering.
“The general consensus here – and I know it’s incredibly broad and vague – is change,” Bondi said. “Even in the Wall Street protests, over a week or two, there was no definitive list of demands.”
Bondi described Occupy Sacramento as a democracy where no one person is a leader, and objectives are being worked out.
“We’re trying to get more organized at this point,” he said. “I just hope people stick with us.”
Pettit said police will continue to enforce the city’s listed park hours and “no camping” ordinance.
“We are anticipating to stay there and do the same thing again,” he said. “We’ll see if the same people want to be arrested. It’s up to them. Our primary concern is keeping the peace.”
Brandon Darnell is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow him on Twitter @Brandon_Darnell.