Three homeless residents of the Occupy Madison encampment, along with a group that organized the camp, filed a lawsuit against city leaders Friday to extend their stay at a city-owned vacant parking lot beyond a deadline that is approaching on Monday.
The group is asking a Dane County judge to issue a temporary restraining order that would bar the city from taking any action to remove Occupy residents from the encampment that has been at 802 E. Washington Ave. since October.
A hearing was set for Monday before Dane County Circuit Judge Amy Smith. At a brief hearing Friday before Circuit Judge John Markson, the city agreed that "hoop house" structures on the site can stay until noon on Wednesday, but there is no agreement to allow continued camping after Monday.
Defendants in the lawsuit include Mayor Paul Soglin, Police Chief Noble Wray, Fire Chief Steven Davis, City Building Inspector George Hank and Janel Heinrich, director of Public Health Madison and Dane County.
Earlier this month the Madison City Council voted not to extend a deadline for the group to abandon the site. After Monday, Occupy Madison will no longer qualify for a state temporary camping permit, and city attorney Michael May said it would be difficult to get an extension. May said Friday that he was not aware of the suit and declined to comment.
State law does not allow temporary dwellings to be occupied for more than four continuous months within a 12-month period.
Occupy Madison residents Daniel Callahan, Paula Sophia Martinez and William M. Gruber, in a motion for temporary injunction written by three Madison lawyers, allege that removal from the Occupy Madison site would violate their rights under the state and federal constitutions.
They also alleged that the city "can identify no interest, compelling or otherwise, for its abrupt, arbitrary change of conduct relative to the inhabitants of the encampment."
While the encampment has had a cooperative relationship with police in Madison, police in other cities have destroyed or disposed of belongings at other Occupy sites across the U.S. when breaking up the encampments.
"This is a serious consequence for persons who have a permanent residence, but it is even more significant for a homeless person, all of whose belongings may be on the site, and may be literally essential to the person's survival in the absence of a permanent residence," the motion states. "It is only mildly hyperbolic, then, to say that allowing the police to clear the site and potentially destroy or discard the inhabitants' personal belongings could have the effect of a death sentence."
The lawsuit also asks for a permanent injunction barring removal of Occupy Madison and its inhabitants until a suitable alternative location can be found.