Occupy Atlanta protesters continued their camp-out in Woodruff Park on Thursday, a day after Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed gave them five days to vacate the park.
"I am committed to protecting the public and ensuring that the laws of the city are respected," Reed said in a statement. "I will not allow public safety to be jeopardized in any way by the protesters. So far, all of their actions have been peaceful and nonviolent."
The announcement comes after several days in which city officials weighed their options. On Monday, the mayor's chief of staff, Candace Byrd, told reporters, "We're allowing the protesters the opportunity to leave the park peacefully," but gave no deadline.
On Tuesday, Reed spokesman Reese McCranie said the activists would be allowed to remain encamped "for the time being."
The mayor was still wrestling with the situation Tuesday, telling the Atlanta City Council’s public safety committee that the situation needed to be resolved. “At some point, we have to act," said Reed, adding that the protesters were damaging the green space and violating a city ordinance that prohibits people from congregating in city parks overnight.
“I do worry that we are setting precedents," the mayor said. Giving exemptions to the law “is creating a real problem for us.”
Jason Woody of East Point, a Morehouse graduate, said Thursday he hopes the protesters will be able to stay in the park beyond the Monday deadline.
"We're still here and we plan on being here," he told the AJC. "I'd like to see us come to some type of resolution with the city. I know Mayor Bloomberg in New York granted a special permit for protesters to be out after hours and I'd like to see something like that here."
Also on Thursday, organizers of the protest announced they will hold a rally Friday to protest the closing of the Peachtree Pine homeless shelter. The rally will begin at 5 p.m. at Woodruff Park, followed by a march to the shelter at 477 Peachtree St.
The extension afforded the protesters allows them to stay in the park until the adjournment of the Atlanta City Council meeting on Monday, Reed spokesman Sonj Jacobs Dade said. Those meetings typically end in the late afternoon.
What happens then remains unclear.
"This is a problem that just doesn't have an easy answer," Reed said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I will ensure that peace is maintained and order is maintained in this city."
A spokesman for Occupy Atlanta, rallying against corporate greed and on behalf of an assortment of progressive causes, said the group will not abide by the mayor's executive order, adding its members are willing to be arrested.
The activists set up stakes in the park Friday night, with their numbers varying through the weekend. There was a noticeable uptick in the crowd Wednesday as roughly 50 tents were spotted across the six acres.
City Council member Kwanza Hall, whose district includes downtown Atlanta, said he's received numerous complaints about the makeshift tent city.
"I really want to see Occupy Atlanta try to be considerate and respect that there are residents nearby," Hall said. "I do have concerns about the precedent this sets for other city parks and other groups. It may set precedent for other groups that decide they want to show up and have an overnight event in the park.
"Everybody should be expected to play by the same rules."
Staff photojournalist John Spink contributed to this article.