An Occupy Toledo member on Tuesday joined hundreds of others who have been arrested in Wall Street protests across the nation, although the local case involved a confrontation away from the main protest site in Levis Square.
Rick VanLandingham III, a member of the Occupy Toledo movement who has a long history of environmental and neighborhood activism in Toledo, was arrested during a Toledo City Council meeting when he refused to obey commands from a police officer regarding an oversized, hand-written copy of the First Amendment he carried.
A second protester, identified as Meghan Link, 23, who like Mr. VanLandingham lives on Paxton Street, was also arrested, by an Ohio Highway Patrol trooper stationed at One Government Center.
Mr. VanLandingham, 42, was stopped from entering Council Chambers Tuesday afternoon by Harold Mosley, a Toledo police officer assigned as council’s sergeant-at-arms, because he was carrying the sign. Officer Mosley said Mr. VanLandingham was being disruptive at the time.
Mr. VanLandingham said he was “tackled and thrown to the ground for exercising his Constitutional rights” to protest a Bell administration decision to prohibit participants of the Occupy Toledo protest in Levis Square from erecting tents or canopies there.
“I believe the city administration is oppressing our rights by not allowing us to erect tents,” Mr. VanLandingham said as he was led away in handcuffs from One Government Center to the Safety Building across Erie Street.
According to a police report, Ms. Link was arrested by the state trooper, “after a short scuffle,” for pushing Officer Mosley while he was arresting Mr. VanLandingham.
“You have no right to arrest me,” Ms. Link screamed while being restrained during the disturbance, which was audible from inside council chambers.
The police report said she refused to walk and was partly carried out of the building, while Mr. VanLandingham received medical attention from Toledo firefighters for an asthma attack at the scene before being taken to the Lucas County jail for booking.
Lucas County Sheriff’s jail officials said Mr. VanLandingham was charged with misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct, menacing, assault and resisting arrest.
A booking report for Ms. Link, who is charged with felony assault of a police officer and resisting arrest, described her as “uncooperative” and “resisting with officers” after her arrival at the jail.
Dale Bogucki, one of a handful of Occupy Toledo protesters who accompanied Mr. VanLandingham to Government Center, said he felt the treatment by police was unfair.
“I didn’t think any of it was called for. [Mr. VanLandingham] was just carrying in the First Amendment to the meeting,” Mr. Bogucki said. “He has a right to bring in the First Amendment to City Council if that’s what he wants to do.”
City officials said they agreed to meet with legal representatives for Occupy Toledo Wednesday morning. Deputy Mayor Steve Herwat said the protesters have filed an application with the city to allow them to pitch tents, set up portable toilets, have free parking, and tap the city’s electricity supply. Mr. Herwat said the city turned off electricity in the square after the protesters began siphoning off power from a streetlight.
The protest group’s more than 50 members reportedly decided by consensus Friday night to hold off putting up tents in the square as an act of “non-violent civil disobedience,” pending the outcome of such a meeting.
Also at issue, in part, is whether an Occupy Toledo permit application to use Levis Square was filed using the proper form.
Growing numbers of cities across the nation are using force to break up a wave of protests modeled after “Occupy Wall Street” in New York, but others, including Philadelphia, Minneapolis, and Portland, Ore., as well as New York, are allowing the demonstrations to go on for now.
Mike Navarre, then Toledo’s police chief, said last month that Occupy Toledo protesters would be allowed to stay in the Levis Square park but would be evicted if they become too rowdy or messy. A downtown resident had filed a complaint that the makeshift camp took over the area that nearby apartment dwellers use as a playground for their children.
Staff writers Ignazio Messina, David Patch, and Claudia Boyd-Barrett contributed to this report.