Occupy Dallas Can Stay Put, Temporarily and Conditionally, Pending a Hearing on Monday
Photo by Chris Howell
This afternoon, U.S. District Judge David Godbey helped City Hall and Occupy Dallas come to a verbal agreement that protestors can not only keep camping outside City Hall, but can also use City Hall restrooms and keep their current signage -- two issues disputed in the lawsuit seeking a temporary restraining order filed by Occupy Dallas's attorneys Wednesday night. This peace-keeping arrangement, discussed during a closed-door teleconference between Godbey and attorneys from the city and Occupy Dallas, expires Monday at 4 p.m., when either Godbey or another federal judge will hear the case that will potentially determine whether the encampment can continue.
"It's just like a semi-permanent structure. It's a kind of restraining order that isn't a restraining order," said Occupy Dallas attorney Jonathan Winocour, sarcastically referencing his clients' contention that language such as "semi-permanent" makes sections of the contract vague and difficult to follow. "It's a 'win' insofar as it's unlikely that we're going to be moved out by 5 p.m. Saturday."
First Assistant City Attorney Chris Bowers confirmed that the city agreed not to kick Occupiers off city property for violating the City Hall bathroom or "semi-permanent" signage provisions in the current contract agreed upon last month and originally set to expire in December.
"If there were serious public safety or health concerns, we would reserve the right to terminate the agreement," Bowers said. Asked whether the city will step up monitoring of other issues over the weekend, Bowers gave little indication, saying simply, "I expect that the city will monitor the property during the weekend."
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A hearing was first held earlier this afternoon in front of Judge Gena Slaughter. The city wanted the case in federal court after Winocour this morning delivered an amended petition that alleged the city had violated protesters' constitutional rights.
Veterans Day helped stall out proceedings earlier in the day: Winocour said the holiday prevented him from having a hearing in time for the Saturday at 5 p.m. mark, when the city threatened it might boot the encampment in letters sent by Bowers and City Manager Mary Suhm earlier in the week. Slaughter said the case was indeed out of her jurisdiction, and that Winocour could contact an on-call federal judge.
Her decision yielded an afternoon during which all parties, present company included, paced the halls of the courthouse, waiting to hear when and if a federal judge could hear the case. Then came the teleconference with Godbey and the extension until Monday.