City Hall

Dallas Hopes to Head Off Future Occupy Protests by Tightening Anti-Camping Rules

Occupy Dallas, the local champion of the 99 percent, persists in vestigial form as small band of activists who stage occasional temporary demonstrations. The semi-permanent-City Hall-squatter's-camp version of the movement died in November 2011 when it was raided by police as part of a nationwide crackdown on Occupy.

Since then, the city of Dallas has apparently been mulling ways to head off any repeats of 2011, when an Occupy encampment sprung up at City Hall. They've finally arrived at a solution, arrived at after 16 months of careful study: a more restrictive anti-camping ordinance.

The council's Public Safety Committee will meet Wednesday to discuss the measure, which would expand the current ban on overnight camping in parks to include City Hall, the library, the convention center, and other city-owned land. The new rules also wouldn't be limited only to overnight stays but would bar tents or any other "temporary shelter" from being set up at any time.

In a presentation (below) set to be delivered Monday, Dallas Police Chief David Brown argues such measures are needed to combat unsanitary conditions, fire hazards, property damage and crime that crop up during semi-permanent gatherings. The presentation does not specifically name Occupy Dallas but cites "confusion" that arose from certain "Spontaneous Encampments." The accompanying photos show the Occupy encampment that took root behind City Hall.

We reached out to one of the local Occupy leaders, who describes himself as "the East Coast union agitator, flown in specifically to incite the docile Dallas activist public," but may or may not actually be the significant other of a certain Observer staffer. He is not impressed.

"A little late there, guys," he wrote over Gchat, then proceeded to explain the movement's philosophical quibble with the city's attempt to legislate away inconvenient protests. "There is no law that the city of Dallas, or the U.S. government may pass that will eliminate the right of the people to protest its grievance against the government. The ordinance is not only irrelevant, but illegal as it seeks to tear down the right to peaceful assembly."

And, while the East Coast union agitator and his colleagues have limited themselves to less permanent means of protest since the 2011 crackdown, they don't intend to let any piddling municipal ordinance stand in the way of future demonstrations.

"There will be ongoing protests in Dallas and elsewhere," he said. "I cannot say if there will be another attempt at an encampment, and even if there were I would not divulge that information publicly."

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Eric Nicholson
Contact: Eric Nicholson