Occupiers Contract with City Set to Expire

January 31, 2012 Updated Jan 31, 2012 at 12:35 AM EDT

By Allen Leight

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January 31, 2012 Updated Jan 31, 2012 at 12:35 AM EDT

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) - Occupy Buffalo held an 'open forum' Monday night, open just those associated with the group that has been peacefully occupying Niagara Square since last October.

Though leaders of the movement declined to comment specifically on the meeting, members said they were discussing the future of the group as its contract with the City of Buffalo that allows them to stay overnight in the public square ends at the end of January.

And after nearly five months of camping on some of the city's most valuable real estate, many are wondering if they have overstayed their welcome.

"The calls to the council President's office have been city wide, please get these people out of the square. There's no reason to be there overnight, there's no reason for the square to look as bad as it does, and they want this to end. They don't want the contract renewed or permit renewed. They want the square empty," says Buffalo Common Council President Richard Fontana.

Other concerns expressed include the cost the protesters are causing city taxpayers. The common council waived the fee for the group's permit, money that for other groups would pad the city's coffers. Occupiers also have had free use of city electricity within the square. The overall appearance of the public square is also something that the council president says will need to be addressed.

"The square does look bad now. I actually walked through some of the areas they vacated and those areas now need to be re-grated, they are so wavy and bumpy...that's going to be an expense to the city," Fontana said.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown says the City Law Department is currently in talks with the occupiers as they look to extend their stay.

Those discussions are continuing. They have been a very professional group. They have worked well with the city. There have been very few problems and we have respected their freedom of speech rights," said Brown Tuesday.

Meanwhile, critics say the movement has become more of a billboard campaign than an active protest, with often one or two people camping out overnight and unoccupied signs posted among the dwindling number of tents.

Then there is the liability to the city.

"I'm concerned that the city at this point is sanctioning the activity going on down there. If someone does get hurt does the city get sued? Who has insurance?" Fontana added.

With the Powder Keg Winterfest set to take place in Niagara Square on the weekend of February 11th, it remains unclear where of if the Occupy Buffalo movement will be continuing their protest.