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Occupy questions may lead to powwow.

Byline: Nick Kotsopoulos

WORCESTER - The City Council wants designees from the city manager's office, the Police Department and the Law Department to meet with representatives of Occupy Worcester this week to go over the city's rules governing use of public parks and sidewalks.

Mayor Joseph C. O'Brien requested the meeting last night, after representatives of Occupy Worcester asked the council for clarification regarding the interpretation of city ordinances governing the use of public land.

Shreena Bindra of Occupy Worcester raised questions about restrictions governing the use of all lands owned by the city, and whether there are specific restrictions governing peaceful assembly on public sidewalks, aside from the requirement not to obstruct them.

Ms. Bindra, who was among the more than 30 members of Occupy Worcester at the council meeting, also asked whether all public land at Lincoln Square is under city park jurisdiction and therefore under city park ordinances.

Mayor O'Brien said it is in everyone's best interest to have a clear understanding of what the rules are.

He said it is important for the city and Occupy Worcester to go forward with a consensus understanding as to what its members can and cannot do in public parks and on sidewalks.

"Let's have the appropriate parties sit down and have a discussion about the rules of the city," Mayor O'Brien said. "We want to promote as much as possible free speech, the engagement of ideas and respect for public property. Questions have been asked about existing city ordinances and their interpretation; we need to bring some clarity to what the rules of the road are."

District 3 Councilor Paul P. Clancy Jr. requested that the city administration first provide the council with a report in response to the questions that were raised before meeting with members of Occupy Worcester.

But Councilor-at-Large Konstantina B. Lukes chided her colleagues for not showing more support for City Manager Michael V. O'Brien and the way he and police have dealt with Occupy Worcester demonstrators on the Common. Members of Occupy Worcester have now moved to Lincoln Square.

Mrs. Lukes said the council has left City Manager O'Brien "out there hanging by himself" by not publicly supporting his efforts.

She introduced a resolution in which she called on the council to go on record in support of the manager's efforts with Occupy Worcester as the city's chief conservator of the peace and his efforts to respect the movement's constitutional rights of free speech.

But District 2 Councilor Philip P. Palmieri exercised his right under the council's rules to table Mrs. Lukes' resolution for one week. He said such a delay made "good sense" so the council can have time to get a report back from the city administration regarding the questions that were raised last night.

Mrs. Lukes, meanwhile, said only two of her colleagues were willing to support her resolution.

"Frankly, I expected more support from the City Council for the city manager," Mrs. Lukes said. "The city manager has done an admirable job dealing with a difficult situation. I support everything the city manager has done. But while the city manager has shown great leadership, this City Council has not taken any action to either support or criticize the city manager.

"Instead, this City Council is walking away from this and letting the city manager take the fall," she said. "This is our responsibility more than it is the city manager's; he works for us. As a body, the City Council should be taking a position on this."

But Councilor-at-Large Joseph M. Petty said some city councilors were unaware of Mrs. Lukes' resolution until she brought it up last night. As a result, he said, not everyone was given an opportunity to co-sponsor the resolution.

"If she wanted to do it right, she would have come out with it last Thursday or Friday so it made the agenda instead of bringing it up tonight," Mr. Petty said.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Nov 16, 2011
Words:655
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