At the end of business yesterday City Hall sent that memo from City Manager Mary Suhm and that letter from First Assistant City Attorney Chris Bowers. Both said more or less the same thing: Occupy Dallas has till 5 p.m. Saturday to clean up its mess behind Dallas City Hall, or else the group will be told to git off city property per that agreement signed last month. The docs arrived not long after I'd spoken with some city officials who said Mayor Mike Rawlings is quickly losing patience with the Occupiers, to whom he'd already given one strike and wasn't about to let go to a full count.
So, now comes this: a missive in response from Occupy Dallas, which this morning posted to its Facebook page a note that it's offended by "the notion that the city is giving us the right to be on Dallas property." The press release, written by Glynn Wilcox, is a variation on that earlier posting. It reads:
"In response to the letter from the City of Dallas, OccupyDallas would like to reiterate our commitment to abide by the agreement between OccupyDallas and the City. As Dallas citizens, and per our agreement, OccupyDallas is assessing the concerns that Manager Suhm and First Assistant City Attorney Bowers have raised.
"OccupyDallas takes offense to the notion that the city is giving us the right to be on Dallas property. The city has recognized that the OccupyDallas encampment is a First Amendment Activity and is therefore protected under the First Amendment. OccupyDallas has been more than willing to engage in meaningful and productive interactions with City Staff and those on the Council including the Mayor's Office. We have repeatedly made the invitation for anyone to address the General Assembly or speak directly with individuals conforming to the agreement that only a limited number of members may enter city hall to speak with staff or our elected city officials."
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I asked Occupy Dallas media contact Michael Prestonise to be more specific. And he was, saying this afternoon that OD's attorneys are "working up a draft proposal to take to the court" that would alter the language of the original agreement with the city.
He says much of the contract is "arbitrary, vague and ambiguous," and he believes the city is trying to penalize the Occupiers unnecessarily. Such as: "The part about them finding feces on the ground? I know people that aren't Occupy Dallas walk their pets through the park, and obviously Occupy Dallas can't be responsible for people not picking up after their dogs."
Prestonise says the group "will uphold and carry through on our end of the deal," but then adds this: "The mayor said on TV last night the city has granted us permission ... to occupy the park, but since the city has said this is a First Amendment activity, we hold we do not need the permission of the city. The Constitution gives us the right to occupy a public space for peaceable assembly."
In other, very related news: Stephen Bevanides, the man charged with assaulting a public official at Saturday's downtown run-in with DPD, is being released from Lew Sterrett today at around 4:30, 5 p.m. There will be a press conference at 6.