Occupy Missoula's courthouse camp was removed and one person was arrested when Missoula County officials took down the last 10 tents starting at 6 a.m. Tuesday.
Almost everyone peacefully left the county courthouse front lawn when 15 deputies and 10 county employees came to remove the tents, said Missoula County Sheriff's Detective Jason Johnson.
"One man was inside a tent that needed to be removed," Johnson said. "He was given plenty of opportunity to remove himself and would not, so he was taken to jail, booked and released on misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and obstructing a public official."
That was Mark M. Davis, 21. Of the approximately dozen people at the scene Tuesday morning, Johnson said two or three appeared to belong to the Occupy Missoula organization while the rest were homeless people who had joined the encampment.
Occupy Missoula has kept a 24-hour-a-day presence at the Missoula County Courthouse since October, trying to raise awareness of income inequality, homelessness and political disenfranchisement. In addition to its camp, members have held "general assemblies" every Sunday and numerous other gatherings to train newcomers and plan activities.
However, a schism developed recently between some members who focused on the encampment and others who wanted Occupy Missoula to address wider issues, such as the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision favoring corporate financing in political races. A "Move to Amend" rally on that subject is planned for this Friday.
"A lot of people feel strongly about keeping an active occupation, involving a tent that's visible," Occupy Missoula participant Crystal Kingston said on Tuesday. "I don't know if we have a Plan B in place."
Missoula County officials repeatedly asked the protesters to remove the tents, citing increasing problems with litter and human waste on the grounds. On Jan. 4, the county commissioners passed an ordinance banning camping on county property without a permit.
"We felt there was ample opportunity for them to pack up and go," Johnson said. "They've made several promises to leave, and the last was they'd leave after Martin Luther King Day."
Johnson said there was no firm deadline warning about the Tuesday morning removal, but many protesters had already packed up their things before officers arrived. County maintenance staff took down two large tents sheltering two smaller tents, plus six additional small tents on the grounds. Johnson said several tent owners didn't have vehicles available to remove their gear, so the county is storing it for them to reclaim.