Occupy Atlanta protesters returned to Woodruff Park early Friday afternoon, but they planned to leave by closing time.
Protesters erected five tents, but one of the campers said they would not remain for long.
Austin Gallagher, 18, told the AJC that they didn’t plan to say beyond 11 p.m., when they would be in violation of a city ordinance and subject to arrest.
“We’re trying to show the people of Atlanta that just because we were arrested it doesn’t matter to us,” said Gallagher, among the 52 people arrested early Wednesday morning. He added, “We’re not trying to get arrested every night.”
Atlanta Police spokesman Carlos Campos said there was no problem with the protesters being in the park when it’s open. “They’re welcome to enjoy our parks as long as they follow all rules and regulations,” he said.
The protesters who returned to Woodruff Park Friday said Occupy Atlanta was still unified even though there were some disagreements evident Thursday during the group’s nightly assembly.
Tim Franzen, one of the Occupy Atlanta leaders, had a heated exchange with another demonstrator who thought the group should return to Woodruff Park after hours.
Franzen argued the protesters should settle on private property where they could retool their message without worrying about arrests.
But some felt that if the occupiers aren’t defying authorities, the media will stop paying attention, middle-class residents will tune out and the movement will fizzle.
Occupy Atlanta’s plans for Friday night remained unclear.
Occupy Atlanta protesters who camped out overnight at the Martin Luther King Jr. national historic site moved out Friday morning.
The 100 to 150 protesters who occupied the King site had left by 8 a.m., Channel 2 Action News reported. It was not known where they were headed.
Atlanta police officers were on the scene at the King Center on Thursday and a helicopter circled overhead.
“Tonight, we stared in the eyes of the 1 percent and those who represent the 1 percent, and they blinked,” Tim Franzen, an Occupy Atlanta leader, said. “We’re staying here.”
He said the group has several offers to take up residence at a new location on private property.
Chief Park Ranger Clark Moore said the park opens at 9 a.m. and the protesters needed to be out by 8 a.m.
State Sen. Nan Orrock talked to the crowd earlier, telling people that they were on federal property and, if arrested, could face federal charges. Her son Jesse is among the protesters.
“I’m not in favor of rounding people up like rats,” she said. “I’m in favor of looking for solutions.”
APD spokesman Carlos Campos said police do not intend to make any arrests at this time and have not been asked to intervene.
“Since it’s federal property, it’s their issue,” he said. “They have to figure out what they want to do. We can certainly assist, if asked.”
Police evicted the protesters from Woodruff Park in downtown Atlanta early Wednesday morning, arresting more than 50 people after several weeks of exemptions to park rules.
The protesters met Thursday night in Centennial Olympic Park to discuss their next move. Then they moved on to briefly set up camp at Jackson and Irwin streets. That area, a baseball field, is city property, and the protesters moved when they were informed, Campos said.
Occupy Atlanta has cited homelessness, foreclosures, income inequality and joblessness among its reasons for organizing.
Scott Brown, 26, who was arrested at Woodruff Park, was back with Occupy Atlanta Thursday night, but he said he wasn’t looking to get arrested again because he has to go to work Friday.
“We’re not robbing anybody,” he said. “We’re not blowing anything up. We’re feeding homeless people. We’re getting together and talking about the political situation.”
Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall talked to the group and said it was time for dialogue and understanding.
“I think what we have here is detente,” he said.
–Staff writers Jeremiah McWilliams and Rhonda Cook and photographer Hyosub Shin contributed to this article.