Breaking: City of Dallas Boots Occupy Dallas From Their Campsite Behind City Hall
The scene outside, and around, Dallas City Hall at 12:40 a.m.
All photos by Robert Wilonsky
Robert's downtown at the Occupy Dallas camp, where police are breaking up protestors as we speak. He sends along these photos, and this:
City has yanked their agreement with Occupy Dallas, and they're currently giving the camp the boot. Police are stationed at every entrance, and around City Hall. No cars in and out. Right now, they're packing up tents. City has given them time to vacate.
More forthcoming, as Robert's on the scene...
Update 12:11 a.m.: There are cops mounted and stacked along City Hall -- getting ready for God knows what.
Update 12:21 a.m.: Some of the occupiers have formed barricades using chairs and tables and will not leave willingly. Glynn Wilcox, one of the Occupy Dallas spokespersons, told those who are willing to vacate the premises that they will be safely escorted to a separate area, where they can wait and gather their things. Those who will not leave willingly "will be escorted about by DPD." Said Wilcox, sarcastically: "This is what democracy looks like." To which someone replied, "This is what bullshit looks like."
Update 12:29 a.m.: Over the bullhorn, DPD orders media to leave Occupy Dallas camp. From Robert: "Doubt I'll leave. I'm standing next to Dallas Morning News's Roy Appleton, who also refuses to leave."
Update 12:39 a.m: Media has been told to leave the camp -- otherwise they'll be arrested. Robert, and others who'd prefer not to be cuffed, are gathered across the street. Police warned that they couldn't "guarantee safety."
Update 12:53 a.m.: On Akard and Canton there are two rows of cops in riot gear, officers on horseback beneath the back of city hall, cops on motorcycles all 'round -- all of them prepared to enter the camp at any minute. Updates forthcoming.
Update 1:15 a.m.: City council member Angela Hunt is on the premises. She read about the eviction on Twitter, and confirms city council members did not receive the eviction notice until 11:45 p.m., the same time First Assistant City Attorney Chris Bowers sent the same letter to Occupy Dallas's legal rep, attorney Jonathan Winocour. Raid scheduled to begin in moments. Question is: Did DMN reporter Roy Appleton jump back in the camp? DPD just warned him over the loud speaker to leave the campsite "immediately," lest he be arrested. (Appleton had gone back to get his car, and we were told later that, yes, he did leave the campsite proper before the raid went down.) Winocour, via WFAA: This is reminiscent of a "nascent police state."
Update 1:28 a.m.: Angela Hunt told Unfair Park she is "extremely disappointed" by the fact that Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm did not mention that the raid would take place until 11:45, especially since "obviously the plan had been made before then." Winocour tells Hunt, "this seems like a grossly disproportionate use of force." Hunt's response: "Ya think?"
Update 1:34 a.m: Officers in full riot gear are inside the camp. They appear to be making sure no one has left. It also appears that there are more cops than tents...
Update 1:48 a.m: So, it's beginning to wind down. TV crew's are packing up their cameras, police are packing up their riot gear, and a few paddy wagons are hauling Occupiers to Lew Sterrett.. Robert's heard of at least three that were arrested, maybe more. Press will most likely be briefed later this morning. No doubt we will hear further from City Manager Mary Suhm as she proceeds to explain (to at least one angry council member) how the hell this happened.
Update 2:01 a.m. Operations are winding down. DPD's dispersed after arresting 17 members of Occupy Dallas who refused to leave, according to one DPD spokesman on the scene.
Update at 3:09 a.m.: From the Occupy Dallas Facebook page:
There seems to be some division on twitter in our movement. This is the only statement OccupyDallas.org will make on FB: We were notified by the media of the raid an hour before cops arrived. When the media team arrived we discovered a group of members had abandoned the camp several hours before. They removed their tents before the police announced the raid. The @OccupyDallas admin user apparently left with them. None of the small group returned to support the protesters arrested on site or stand with them to be arrested. Our Twitter account released a tweet claiming the press contact, Michael Prestonise and blogger/FB admin DBCOOPA are "police informants." Although not confirmed, the current belief is that they were somehow informed of the raid hours in advance of the media, left Occupy Dallas with their gear. The individuals arrested defending the camp tonight were astonished to find this group left them behind. We have no further interest in commenting on this and are going to move forward with demonstrations. The time of these demonstrations will be announced shortly. The @occupydallas is no longer affiliated with this FB account or OccupyDallas.org.
Update at 6 a.m. (Joe Tone): Looks like I slept through an eventful night. The upside of my weariness, aside from seven solid hours? I'm now awake to share a most thorough statement from city spokesman Frank Librio, which you'll find before the additional photos below. Stay tuned, obviously.
CITY OF DALLAS STATEMENT: OCCUPY DALLAS
The City of Dallas has made every effort at each juncture of the Occupy Dallas situation over the past six weeks to support the group's ability to express its First Amendment rights. The City's approach and response to this situation have been cited by observers to be a model for other cities experiencing similar circumstances associated with the Occupy movement.
Occupy demonstrations have occurred over many weeks and led to erection of encampments in many cities, including Dallas. Generally, overnight camping and sleeping in public are not allowed on public property and are not associated with First Amendment rights. However, the City of Dallas worked with Occupy Dallas' legal representatives to reach an agreement which allowed the encampment behind City Hall, for a limited period of time, as long as conditions of the agreement were in strict compliance.
Despite repeated attempts by the City asking for compliance, some individuals associated with Occupy Dallas have violated the agreement. Criminal offenses have also occurred and are documented in the attachment.
Compounding the criminal offenses and breaches of the agreement, there have been health concerns materializing at the encampment in regards to the buildup of trash and inadequate sanitary conditions that, if allowed to continue, could have lead to serious health issues for participants.
Most concerning, Dallas Police Department officials and members of the DPD Crisis Intervention Team have observed and had been told by individuals inside the encampment that there was increasing dissension and strife among various factions. Serious safety issues, including criminal activity, have been of paramount concern. Initially, the demonstrators maintained a peaceful posture toward the public, officers and each other. Over time, violent incidents have occurred. These occurrences became more frequent and created a substantial threat to the public and to demonstrators camping at the Occupy Dallas site.
For the safety of each individual at the encampment, the police and members of the public, it was determined to terminate the agreement and disband the encampment. This action does not affect the group's First Amendment right as any group is allowed to express its freedom of speech and demonstrate on public property during most hours of each day. It is against City ordinances to sleep in public or be in a public park or on City Hall property from midnight to 5am.
The enforcement began at approximately midnight (Thursday morning). Police made several announcements, over a 90 minute period of time, via loud speakers asking for demonstrators to leave. Police allowed for individuals to pack their belongings and property and gave repeated warnings to vacate the site during that time period. Those individuals that did not heed the multiple warnings were arrested shortly after 1:30 am (Thursday morning). 18 people were arrested without resistance and acted peacefully. The demonstrators' property has been catalogued and will be secured in either the police department's property room or at the auto pound.
The Crisis Intervention Team assisted 7 individuals in obtaining shelter.
Planning for a variety of contingencies has been ongoing since the demonstrators first began their protests. The Police Department developed plans based on their experience and training, along with consultation from other cities dealing with the Occupy movement. However, it was not determined until late Wednesday evening to place a plan in action. The previously stated reasons were instrumental in the final determination to enact the operation. The police presence was appropriate for the situation, facilitating compliance while ensuring officer and demonstrator safety.
A news conference will be held at 10:00 am Thursday at Dallas Police Department Headquarters in the media room.
Angela Hunt being interviewed by KXAS-Channel 5's Scott Gordon, shortly before the raid went down
All photos by Robert Wilonsky
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