One week ago today we walked alongside the Occupy Dallas-ites as they marched from Pike Park to the Dallas Federal Reserve airing their laundry list of grievances, echoing those who stormed Wall Street almost a month ago and never left as their ranks swelled. But in the week since, the story in Dallas has been less about corporate greed and bank bailouts than it has a fight over Pioneer Park between City Hall and the convention center, where the occupiers popped up a makeshift tent city and turned their camp-out into a First Amendment fight with city officials who granted the group a permit on the condition they got a million-dollar insurance policy. That didn't happen. But this did late Wednesday:
Members of the (very) loosely assembled Occupy Dallas filed a temporary injunction against the city, insisting the demand for a policy is a violation of their "right to peaceably demonstrate in public forums in" the city. You can read the suit and request for a temporary injunction on the other side. The city will do nothing, it says, until a judge rules on the TRO Friday.
So, until tomorrow, let's return to yesterday, when we called council member and former mayor Dwaine Caraway to get his thoughts on Occupy Dallas. We'd heard he wanted to walk down the hill and talk to the protesters himself, and we were curious whether he'd done so. He hadn't yet.
"I was expecting a couple of them to come here to my office," he said. "I've been here pretty much all day, and nobody's come."
We talked about the million-dollar insurance policy issue. Caraway wants Occupy to think seriously about getting it, he said. "The insurance policy being requested is a million dollars. But it doesn't take a million dollars to get it. It probably would cost around $500 to secure."
The policy, he said, will help the city not feel so antsy about potential lawsuits, and thus work better with the protesters.
"Let's go back to last night and use the storm we had, for example," he explained. "With them being on city property, as they are, let's just say someone got struck by lightning. They're on the city's property, and that's a potential lawsuit for taxpayers. So where I am sensitive personally to what their position is, we still must do everything we can to protect the taxpayers. It's just prudent to make sure all the safety measures are addressed."
But what are the odds someone would sue for injury? "It doesn't have to be them," Caraway said. "It could be a parent. If something happened to you, you're not going to be here to do nothing, but that's not to say your family's not going to do something on your behalf." The same would apply, he said, if a counter-group came down to confront them "and something goes wrong."
Caraway said he'd show the group where to get a policy himself, if necessary. "I'll tell 'em where to go," he said. "I don't have a problem with them or their message. They've been picking up behind themselves, picking up trash, and they haven't been disorderly. A good protest, I wouldn't let $500 stop me from getting my message out."
In this day and age, when companies will "ensure Beyonce's legs" and whatnot, he added, "it's not impossible to secure a policy and one that's affordable."
So, we asked, when was he going to head down there and talk with the Occupy people himself about all this?
"I may pass down there and try to see," he said. "But I don't wanna create any waves out here."
Waves be damned, we guess, because about 10 minutes later we got a call that Caraway was waiting for us in front of the Occupy site. When we headed down there to see what was going on, your former mayor was already chatting with four of the Occupy participants, among them a kid wearing a Guy Fawkes mask and a girl with cheek piercings.
"You raised a good point," Caraway was saying to the group as we walked up. They wanted to know whose name would the policy even be under, since they're a loose coalition and not a formal organization? And why was the amount set so high anyway?
Caraway said the amount was "standard," but promised to get some concrete answers for them. He encouraged them to "be open-minded and take [the policy] into consideration."
"Come to the table so we can address those concerns," he added.
"Thank you for coming out," said Richard, one of the participants, very sincerely. He's a guy in his mid-40s who's been organizing most of the cooking for the camp. He was beaming.
"Yeah, they told us the whole council was out of town," another guy added.
"Feel free to come up to my office," Caraway assured them. He did a round of hand-shaking and walked away, trailed by an assistant and a police officer.
"They raised a good point there," with whose name would be on the policy, he told us. "I'm going to go check on all this."
If this lawsuit doesn't muck things up, this could be the start of a beautiful friendship.OccupyVDallas