Carrying a sign that read "Occupy Coachella Valley Still Here," Gale Wheat marched through an empty parking lot in Palm Desert that once held a camp for protesters in defiance of a city ordinance.
Wheat walked over without hesitation to three parked Palm Desert police vehicles and asked officers to take her into custody for being in Civic Center Park past its 11 p.m. curfew.
But she soon marched back within minutes to an anxious group of about 15 protesters who waited on a public sidewalk, cheering her on with chants of "Whose park? Gale's park."
"The officers are exhausted and want to wait for the next shift to arrest me," the 66-year-old retiree told onlookers.
She sat back down onto a plastic chair and waited.
Wheat said she hopes her arrest is seen in solidarity with the arrest of just after midnight Tuesday on suspicion of unlawful assembly. Palm Desert police dismantled the group's camp during a crackdown and promised to arrest anyone else in the park after hours.
"Let's get this over with," Wheat said. "Why are there three sheriff's cars over there? Is it intimidation or are they going to act?"
Wheat, who has been visiting the camp over the past week and talking with protesters, said that she is worried about the "kids" who were arrested earlier in the day.
"I woke up and read that the kids had been arrested. I was really upset. I told him (my husband) I'm going. I'm really worried about the kids. They can't afford to be arrested. They can't afford to have a record. It could really effect their future," she said.
She sat staring at the law enforcement vehicles for about 20 minutes before Lt. William Sullivan walked across the narrow parking lot toward her.
"Do you want me to go with you?" she asked.
"Yes," the lieutenant said. He strolled over to onlookers and confirmed to Patch that the cops did not arrest her earlier because it would have meant "overtime."
Wheat was taken into custody just after 11:30 p.m. by four police officers near the back of the parking lot.
Her civil disobedience marks the tenth arrest at the former encampment at Civic Center Park, where protesters part of the Occupy Wall Street movement have been speaking out against corporate greed and corruption.
Kevin Lyle, one of the group's protesters started a petition online, asking council members to allow protesters to use the park overnight.
"The Riverside County Sheriff Department is continually receiving orders from Palm Desert's city council who say they want us out," Lyle wrote in a letter attached to the petition.
The petition has already received 141 signatures as of 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Assistant City Attorney Robert Hargreaves has said the city supports the group's First Amendment rights, but cannot allow the park to be used as a campground for an extended period of time.
Night in Jail
Wheat told Patch in an interview Wednesday that the officers who arrested her were kind and compassionate, but things went down hill quickly after she arrived at the Indio Jail.
"There is an atmosphere of intimidation and callousness," Wheat said. "I think it’s really more for effect."
She said she overheard a deputy near the holding cell refer to the movement as the "Occupy (expletive) Coachella Valley protesters."
"Those guys do not like us," Wheat said.
She said she is worried about any more protesters spending the night in the jail.
"I really felt scared. It’s not a good place to be. It’s not a place our movement needs to be heading," Wheat said, adding that she plans to meet with the captain of the jail in the near future.
"I was very lucky that my husband showed up and got me out of there," she said, adding that she is glad she went through the experience as it "stretched my mind."