Extension approved for Occupy Las Vegas protesters

A day after the first arrests of Occupy Las Vegas protesters, Clark County officials granted them another three months at their encampment near the Thomas & Mack Center.

About 60 people have been occupying the 1.4-acre site near Paradise Road and Swenson Street since Oct. 21 under an agreement with the county that was set to expire Monday. County officials agreed to a 90-day extension, which will allow protesters to stay through Feb. 20.

Of the 21 Occupy Las Vegas protesters arrested Thursday for blocking northbound traffic on Las Vegas Boulevard, two were jailed for resisting arrest.

Officers with the Metropolitan Police Department bused the group to Cashman Center convention facility for processing. Once protesters were cited for being unlawful pedestrians in the roadway, the plastic zip ties binding their hands were cut, and they were released, police said.

But two protesters were held behind bars until about 10 p.m. Their resisting arrest charges were dropped, but they still were cited for unlawful pedestrian in the roadway -- a misdemeanor. Fellow protesters raised $180 to bail them out.

"The police treated people really, really well," said protester Sebring Frehner , who was not arrested but helped organize the event. "I heard from some people arrested that it was the best they had ever been treated by police in their entire lives."

Occupy Las Vegas is a local chapter of the Occupy Wall Street movement against corporate greed and influence in politics. The Las Vegas event drew about 75 protesters and was part of a national day of mass action that marked the two-month anniversary of the New York protests.

Unlike in other parts of the country, such as Oakland, Calif., where protesters have faced strong police resistance, the Las Vegas movement has communicated with county government officials and police in advance about their protest events. Both police and protesters have said local protests won't turn violent as they have elsewhere.

Police said they were notified ahead of time about Thursday's protest and told civil disobedience might occur. The 30 or so officers who responded commended protesters with Occupy Las Vegas for their cooperation.

"The biggest difference here is the mindset of the group," Las Vegas police Lt. Jason Letkiewicz said at Thursday's event.

"They want to exercise their rights, but they don't feel it would improve their cause to have police show a violent force against them. To get support, they peacefully protest to let people decide if they want to support their message or not, rather than act like a bunch of thugs and force their message on people."

Occupiers took to the movement's Facebook group to chat about the arrests. Someone posted a group photo of those who had been arrested standing in front of the police bus after they had been cited and released.

Most proudly displayed their paper citations for the camera. Others smiled with the white zip ties clenched in their teeth while others waved them in the air.

Protester Brian Ketterer, who had been jailed, posted on the group's Facebook wall from his phone once he was released.

"Freedom, thank you all!" Ketterer wrote. "To have people fighting for my release, protesting at the jail, and waiting for me when I was released, those are my brothers."

The other arrested protester, Roussan Collins , asked police whether he could get on the bus. When he was denied access, he stood in front of a police van, and that's when he was arrested.

The group's first act of civil disobedience sparked a lengthy online debate among protesters, some of whom questioned where the movement was headed now that it gained more attention from the local press.

"... I could run naked down the strip n get press ... (don't worry I'm not that desperate) ... but what kind of message does it send?" wrote protester Enrique Garcia. "... we were already national news ... what are we doing with the attention?"

The group is focusing on its next project in seeking out homeowners on the brink of losing their homes. Occupy Las Vegas protesters plan to occupy foreclosed homes throughout the valley.

Contact reporter Kristi Jourdan at kjourdan@review journal.com or 702-455-4519.