Police say many Occupy tents are empty

PROVIDENCE, RI – A city investigation shows that most of those Occupy Providence tents in Burnside Park are empty at night.

Public safety commissioner Steven Pare asked firefighters to check on the Occupy Providence tents on a cold night last week. Using heat sensors, they found that only seven of the more than 50 tents were occupied. The sensors could not tell how many people were in each tent. Pare says his aim was not to embarrass the protesters but to ensure they were protected from the elements.

"The temperatures were cold," Pare says. "We were concerned with the number of people that are out in the element. We had some snow and it was quite frigid."

Occupy Providence spokesman Mike McCarthy admits not all the tents are occupied but he disputes the city's numbers.

"There are more than seven tents occupied in the park even on the colder nights," McCarthy says. "Now I'm not sure what the actual counts are..."

The protesters have told city officials they'll fold up the tents that aren't being used.

Meanwhile, the Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has some concerns about the city using heat sensors to check on the tents. In a statement, the ACLU denounces it as a "substantial" invasion of privacy and says it is well established by the U.S. Supreme Court that police are required under the fourth amendment to obtain a warrant to use this type of technology on homes. The ACLU is calling on city officials to disavow any further use of this technology at the park.

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