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2 More Undercover Officers Revealed in #D12 Gulf Port 7 Trial

12:27 pm in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

More on the Gulf Port 7: Austin Police Enabled Houston Felonies, Judge Campbell is Not Amused and Austin and Houston Police Coordinated Through Fusion Center.

 

Despite pleas by the Austin Police Department to drop the charges, the trial against the Gulf Port 7 will continue next year.

Rick Reza holds a lockbox at a phallic angle

Undercover Austin Police Officer Rick Reza with his favorite 'dragon sleeve.'

As a consequence, the Austin Police Department were forced to turn photos, emails and documents relating to their investigation over to Judge Joan Campbell. Since APD insists the undercover investigation into Occupy Austin is ongoing, they asked her to suppress the release of the information to the defense. After review by Campbell, a portion of the documents have been released to defense and are making their way to the media.

Campbell’s release reveals that a total of six undercover officers were assigned to monitor Occupy Austin, but three were apparently not involved directly in the lockbox incident where undercover Austin police built lockbox devices. Made from PVC pipes and also known as sleeping dragons or dragon sleeves, lockboxes linked seven protesters together at the December 12, 2011 Port of Houston shutdown. The use of these devices resulted in these occupiers from Austin, Dallas and Houston facing felony charges instead of the misdemeanors brought against those who simply linked their arms and legs.

The first undercover revealed was Shannon G Dowell, who had been forced to testify in the trial’s discovery phase. But now we’ve learned the names of two more — Rick Reza, shown making a phallic gesture with the lockbox in the photo at right. The other, Deek Moore, was apparently the photographer of these rather candid photos of cop antics.

Butch and Rick pose with the lockboxes they made in a garage

Undercover Officers Shannon "Butch" Dowell and Rick Reza with the Lockboxes

Questions remain about what communication occurred between Austin and Houston police and to what degree Texas fusion centers were involved, either the Austin Regional Intelligence Center or the Texas-wide equivalent. Since Campbell chose to keep many of the documents hidden, much will remain unknown about Austin Police involvement before and after December 12. Campbell has seemed to support the defense’s position — first attempting to drop the charges entirely and then pushing for a thorough discovery phase when forced to hear the case by a grand jury. This potential ally will be lost when the trial continues in early 2013 — Judge Joan Campbell is retiring, and her replacement will be selected by Texas Governor Rick Perry.

One of the Gulf Port 7, Iraq Veteran Eric Marquez remains imprisoned. After fundraising by Occupy Austin, Occupy Houston and Occupy Chicago bailed him out of a Harris County, Texas jail where he’d been held since the Port Shutdown, he was imprisoned in Dallas for missing court dates during the initial jail stay. Though he now has National Lawyers’ Guide representation, an apparent determination by the prison industrial complex to keep him inside means he will probably still be behind bars on December 12 2012. According to Garza, charges in Dallas could add up to four years to the years he already faces for his alleged “use of a criminal instrument” at the Port.

Activists Question Austin Police Chief’s Peace Award

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#D12 Gulf Port 7 Interview: Questions Still Unanswered About Austin Police Infiltration

9:56 am in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

A bearded undercover 'Butch' stands behind Natalie, whose mouth is taped at an NDAA protest.

Undercover APD Detective Shannon 'Butch' Dowell stands next to Natalie Atwater, a member of Occupy Austin facing felony charges in Houston because of using his lockboxes. (Photo: John Jack Anderson / Austin Chronicle, used with permission).

For more FDL coverage of the Gulf Port 7 case see Undercover Austin Detective Enables Houston Felonies and Judge Joan Campbell Is Not Amused.

Since I broke the story of Austin Police infiltration and provocation at Occupy Austin on Firedoglake, the story has become international news. To review, Austin Police Narcotics Detective Shannon G Dowell, along with two other still unidentified undercover agents, infiltrated Occupy Austin under orders that reach all the way to Chief Art Acevedo. While undercover, Dowell (known to activists ‘Butch’) built and delivered lockbox devices (a.k.a. sleeping dragons) to activists to use at the Houston Port Shutdown, resulting in 7 activists facing state felony charges.

Monday I was interviewed by Marlo Blue of 90.1 KPFT, Houston’s Pacifica station. Below is a transcript, but you can also listen here. The interview begins at 1:55.

Marlo Blue, KPFT: The Occupy effort seems quiet these days but controversy continues to swirl around the group’s efforts and that of some of its members, also officers who allegedly infiltrated that camp. Well, back in December of last year, groups of Occupy members from Austin, Dallas and Houston took part in the National Port Shutdown Day of Action.

Seven activists blocked the main entrance into the Port of Houston by laying in the road and linking arms inside lockboxes (also known as sleeping dragons) which physically linked them together so that police [must] cut them apart. The use of these instruments resulted in these seven being charged with Unlawful Use Of A Criminal Instrument Or Device while others who merely linked arms and legs faced lesser misdemeanor charges.

One of those in attendance has followed the action through his blog and he joins us now. Kit O’Connell. Kit, thank you for joining us.

Kit O’Connell, myFDL Editor: Hi, thanks for having me.

KPFT: Your blog has quickly become one of my very favorites so I’m very pleased to have you on today.

Kit: Thank you!

KPFT: In your blog, you talk about how Austin undercover officers infiltrated this camp. What led you to suspect these officers or was it discovered after the arrests?

Kit: It was discovered after the arrests. Specifically, the arrests of course occurred on December 12 on the Port Shutdown Day. In the first days of February of 2012, the first inkling came in as an anonymous tip to Occupy Austin’s email saying specifically that a person a person who was known to us as Butch was an undercover officer. It didn’t give his full name so it took quite a bit of investigation to find him after that.

KPFT: Now your blog points to a key question in this incident: Why did undercover Austin Police Department Detective Shannon G Dowell provide material support for an activist protest that resulted in them being charged with a felony in Houston, Texas? Did you actually get an answer to that question?

Kit: We did not. It’s unclear to what degree the Austin Police Department knew about this. They’re admitting, even bragging about their use of undercover officers. The police chief has been talking on Twitter about how it kept the people safe to do this but they’re at the same time saying that they weren’t aware of Dowell buying the lockboxes. I find that hard to believe and I would still like some answers.

KPFT: And of course when the arrests took place, you know, in order I guess to keep everyone safe, they also droppped tents on the protesters to I guess to prevent other people from seeing the dangerous protesters inside or…?

Kit: I wish I had a good explanation for those tents. I was present when those went over people and it was one of the scariest moments of my life to see friends of mine vanish under an inflatable fire department tent.

KPFT: That must have been terrifying. I mean, because, you really don’t know what’s going to happen. There is no transparency when a big ‘ol tent is being dropped.

Kit: Exactly. And, I mean, there were no threats from the protesters. At that time, we were being corralled, even trampled Houston Police Department horses to be kept back, well back from the scene where they were, I guess, cutting the lockboxes apart under that tent.

KPFT: Now, you did mention at first of course, Austin Police Department Shannon G Dowell. Was he the only one who infiltrated the Occupy Austin group?

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Texas Occupies Independence Day

1:43 pm in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

A street march in Austin. Banners: We the People / Workers of the World Occupy. Sign: Choose Love Over Fear

The #OccupyJ4 March on Cesar Chavez in downtown Austin (Photo: Kit O'Connell).

Yesterday, I spent all day with my favorite radical activists, people I’ve come to think of as family, occupying Independence Day. But this wasn’t simply a gathering of the usual Occupy Austin core members —  this was a coalition of occupiers from around the state, along with representatives of several other activist groups from Iraq Veterans Against the War to Texans for Accountable Government. The weather was mild for a Texas summer with a breeze that provided actual relief, and the trees on the beautiful grounds of the Texas State Capitol provided plenty of shade. We had good food, 16 different teach-ins, music, inspiring speeches, and a beautiful street march.

A state trooper admonishes a member of IVAW for her chalk art.

Texas State Trooper Craig Cummings accuses IVAW's Lindsey of Criminal Mischief (Photo: Kit O'Connell)

It might have been a perfect day except for the interference of the Texas State Troopers, who guard the capitol. The grounds are used almost continuously by tourists, workers on their lunch breaks, quinceañeras and weddings, and guerilla dance parties, not to mention activist groups. Once, antiwar protesters pitched tents there for continual occupations in support of peace. Then, about a month after Occupy events began in Austin, the State Preservation Board, the group which oversees the building and its environs (Governor Rick Perry is a member) changed the rules for its use. Now tents are banned, despite their legitimate use as tools of free speech; these same regulations led to Troopers claiming last year that we could only be there for three hours at a time without a permit. Though they backed down and now allow us to assemble for as long as we choose, they are determined to harass us and make that assembly difficult.

In fact, it was the same Sergeant Craig Cummings who appears in the above linked videos who was responsible again yesterday. The harassment began when we erected food tables. Mac, a member of the Occupy Austin OccuQueers, told me about how the table — and he and others at it — were surrounded by ten Troopers with hands on their holsters. Later, they watched members of the Iraq Veterans Against the War use chalk on the sidewalk, a feature of previous ‘die-in’ style protests, before approaching, collecting IDs and arbitrarily giving one member, Lindsey, a warning for ‘Criminal Mischief.’ Later, they told IVAW and others that ‘unattended signs’ were against the law, and that banners spread on the grass must have people sitting on them at all times or their owners would face legal action. Water pistols (even neon-colored or animal-shaped), he said, when aimed at anyone, might merit the use of deadly force. That evening, Christopher Michael (a.k.a. @OccupyURCapitol) began erecting a tent during our permit hours, Troopers approached him and asked him to take it down, then arrested him when he hesitated in doing so. After 24 hours in custody, he was released without charge.

I’ve received negative criticism when I speak out against this behavior by agents of the 1% and the police state. It’s true that Austin’s police, whether APD or Troopers, are not as violent or corrupt as elsewhere — we haven’t dealt with stop and friskactivists shot by tear-gas cannisters, or pepper spray assaults on queer folk. I don’t think this is an excuse: any abuse of police power is inexcusable. I think it’s a sign of how far our free speech rights have fallen that these excuses are made — it’s not as bad as it could be. That’s true — police could be firing on us with live ammunition, too, but does that mean we shouldn’t demand our right to peaceably assemble regardless of whether the reaction is violence or arrests and threats?

While I want money out of politics, and basic human needs met for all people, I continue to believe that free speech itself is enough of a reason to protest. When we take the streets, I’m happy to march for independence, for gay rights, against the NDAA, or any other cause. For me, though, the core of almost any action is our absolute right to freedom of speech.

Sharing Knowledge, Forging Connections

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Watercooler: Pride

6:00 pm in Watercooler by Kit OConnell

Hi, y’all.

Pride celebrations are coming up, or have already occurred, in most major cities — though not in Austin.

Pride traditionally takes place near the anniversary of the Stonewall riots, or at least during the same month. Austin Pride celebration takes place in September in deference to the heat of June. Instead, June in Austin features Queerbomb, a street celebration of LGBTQ rights that follows the original spirit of Pride.

What began as a riot by fed up queer people (largely drag kings) at a mafia-owned watering hole has had its rough edges taken off over the years. Instead of angry activists, we have family-friendly rainbow runs and drink specials at the local bars. What was once about gay rights has instead become about the pink dollar; the mafia has been replaced by corporate sponsors like Budweiser. I’ve never seen so many drunken fist fights in one night as when I attended Pride Weekend in Dallas last year.

Some activists and Occupy-related groups are queerbombing their local pride events. GLITUR, off-shoot of Occupy Seattle, are organizing Drag Out Capitalism:

“Are you sick of the corporate spectacle that Gay Pride has become in Seattle? Do you reject the way local bars jack up their prices to try to make a profit off what is supposed to be a weekend of celebration and unity? Well so are we!!!,” the event announcement reads.

A guerilla street party with high police presence is also expected.

Organizers from Occupy Wall Street NYC’s Occupride celebrations caught the attention of high-profile gay blogger Joe My God when an organizer quit. This looks like a bit of internal Occudrama which unfortunately attracted the attention of the the blogosphere. What saddens me is the speculation in the comments that suggests occupiers intend to ruin Pride. Meanwhile, queer people can still be fired for their sexual orientation or gender identity; to me, the real threat are those corporate sponsors and beer companies who turn Stonewall into another excuse to get drunk.

In any case, OWS organizers have reorganized and created a new Facebook event for their action. My group, the Occupy Austin OccuQueers will have our first discussion of pride plans at our next meeting.

That’s what’s on my mind tonight.

What about you? This is today’s open thread.

Update: Bay Area OccuPride to target Oakland’s Jean Quan during SF Pride Parade.

#TPP Wrap-up: Secret Deals Under Fire

11:05 am in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

For a #TPP Photo Gallery, visit Kit O’Connell’s Approximately 8,000 Words

After a weekend of protest and controversy, it’s clear that the TransPacific Partnership, the secretive and far-reaching international trade deal negotiated in Addison, Texas is under fire. The more sunshine we let in, the less attractive this deal looks to world leaders.

From a direct action perspective, the highlight of the week was the major disruption caused by Yes Lab pranksters with support from Occupy Dallas. Their efforts, which included replacing the toilet paper in the hotel with special ‘TPP’ message paper, culminated in a major infiltration and the presentation of a fake “Corporate Power Tool” award to US Trade Representative Ron Kirk:

The first action began when a smartly-dressed man approached the podium immediately after the gala’s keynote speech by Ron Kirk, U.S. Trade Representative and former mayor of Dallas. The man (local puppeteer David Goodwin) introduced himself as “Git Haversall,” president of the “Texas Corporate Power Partnership,” and announced he was giving Kirk and other U.S. trade negotiators the “2012 Corporate Power Tool Award,” which “Haversall’s” partner held aloft.

Citizens on Twitter from around the world bombarded political accounts in the US with demands to halt the deal:

@BarackObama We Japanese appreciate your kindness such as Tomodachi operation. But we are not happy with TPP! #TPP — tweet by ファーファ@座り込み (@saQra629)

On Saturday, I livetweeted and liveblogged from the TPP: Out of the Shadows rally. A collection of activists from around the country (and even a handful of international visitors) gathered in Addison Circle Park. The coalition, organized by the Texas Fair Trade Coalition, ranged from unions like the Teamsters to multiple Occupy groups like Austin, Dallas and San Antonio. I was dropped at the park around noon on a bus with about 40 occupiers and activists; I’d greatly enjoyed the quiet company of the National Nurses United contingent who were proud of their victory in the upcoming Chicago rally and Tom Morello concert. A lunch had been provided for some, but with no vegetarian options a few of us went in search of other food.

By the time I got back, the rally had grown to over 300 people. Red TPP balloons dotted the crowd, along with signs and banners. Occupy Austin had brought our banner from May Day, “Workers of the World: Occupy!” Anonymous supporters were even present among the crowd, a sign of the major push that movement has been making against the trade deal on social media. The only mainstream media I spotted were from Japan, but I didn’t catch which network they represented.

At about 2pm central time, we marched on the Intercontinental Hotel. This march had a permit; we were to remain on the sidewalk until we reached the roads immediately around the hotel. Teamsters assigned as parade marshals tried to enforce this, but occupiers led a surge into the streets some blocks ahead of schedule. We’d been told not to enter hotel property, even the parking lot, or risk arrest. Simple wooden barricades were placed at the entrance. A couple dozen cops were present, but none of the riot gear reported earlier in the week was visible, although dark suited federal police lurked around.

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