Mayor "Troubled" By Assault at Occupy Dallas Site, But Not Ready to Boot Group Off City Land
Photo by Mark Graham
Mayor Mike Rawlings called moments ago to discuss DPD's announcement that it has in custody a 24-year-old registered sex offender who police say assaulted a 14-year-old girl at the Occupy Dallas encampment behind City Hall. City Hall has already issued an official statement concerning the investigation, but Rawlings wanted to make it very clear: He's not ready to rip up the city's agreement with Occupy Dallas that allows them to stay there, but he's also going to make sure the city keeps a closer eye on the doings in the parking lot behind City Hall.
"What's most important to me is public safety, whether inside or outside the camp," he said. "This is a concerning incident, a concerning act. I asked the police: Is this an isolated incident, or do we have a trend here that will endanger the public's safety? At this point they say this is isolated, but trust me, there will be closer surveillance to make sure it's not a trend. And if it is, we're going to have a very different conversation."
Rawlings said he was told about the arrest by City Manager Mary Suhm, who, he says, agrees: So far, a majority of the Occupiers have lived up to their agreement with the city. And the mayor and city manager expect they will continue to do so.
Still, reminds the city's former homeless czar, "I worked with the homeless, and whenever you have individuals coming and going in a public group, you'll have one out of some number be bad dudes. The Occupy folks have been good by the agreement, and they're very concerned about this as well. ... But any more of this bad stuff is bad for the Occupy Dallas folks, it's bad for the city, and we will have to move on. Let's look at it in this window and see if this continues. It's one strike, and I'm not sure I wanna give 'em three."
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We spoke for quite a while, and the mayor made it very, very clear: He is not pleased with what has happened on city property. He called the incident "troubling," said it was "not good," vowed to "keep a close eye" on Occupy Dallas's doings in the shadow of City Hall.
"We have been very tolerant and open to have that freedom of speech, and some of these people are actually citizens of Dallas," he said, with a small chuckle.
"And I want them to feel like whether I'm in a Halloween costume or at a city council meeting, they're welcome to protest. On the other hand public safety is my main concern. I don't want anything bad to happen down there. If my own son or daughter was down there, it would concern me. I think, hopefully, they're taking from this and learning. ... They've been great by their agreement, and we'll continue this. But you're not going to see a lot more patience if this continues."