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#D12 Gulf Port 7: Undercover Austin Narcotics Detective Enabled Houston Felonies

1:19 pm in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

A red tent is erected over a blockade.

The Houston Fire Department places an inflatable red tent over protesters using lockbox devices built by Austin Police Department Detective Shannon G. Dowell (Photo: December 12, 2011 at the Port of Houston by Kit O'Connell)


Update

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?

That’s the question I want answered after speaking with Ronnie Garza, a member of Occupy Austin who faces felony charges resulting from actions at the Port of Houston on December 12, 2011. On this day, the National Port Shutdown day of action, seven activists from Austin, Dallas, and Houston blocked the main entrance into the port by laying in the road and linking arms inside lockboxes (also known as sleeping dragons), which physically linked them together so that police 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. I was present at this day of ‘Gulf Port Action‘ and wrote about it on my blog, Approximately 8,000 Words.

But it turns out that a secret undercover agent with the police department had infiltrated the activist group, and he is the person who acquired the materials and built the “lockboxes” for this action. Further, apparently other members of the police department were also involved in enabling an action which, but for the undercover agent’s intervention, might never have been classified as a felony.

In addition to Garza, other members of the Gulf Port 7 include Iraq veteran Eric Marquez, who has been stuck in jail since December and Remington Alessi, a Green Party candidate for Houston sheriff. If convincted, they face up to two to ten years in state prison.

The cases were brought before Judge Joan Campbell of the 248th District Court who dismissed all charges due to lack of evidence. However, the felony charges were later reinstated by a Houston grand jury. Garza told me that the latest development of uncovering an infiltrator came to a head at a discovery hearing on Monday, August 27, but is the result of months of hard work by many including his attorney, National Lawyers Guild’s Greg Gladden. Photos of the officer at Occupy Austin have been obtained by Gladden.

Read the rest of this entry →

Life Under Occupation (Occupy Austin Flash Mob)

10:00 am in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

Occupy Austin Visiting an Occupation, even a relatively small one like ours, is a little surreal. The energy is so heated. There’s so much passion, energy, even anger. Then you step away and realize the world continues as normal. Despite the global nature of this movement, people everywhere are living life; Re-entry is jarring when one steps from any temporary encampment to the bright lights of a grocery store.

One of my girlfriends has expressed some discomfort about the Occupy movement and we got to sit down together over Pan-Asian snacks late one night and talk about it. Not only is this very different from her family upbringing (conservative, non-activist parents with ties to the oil industry), but I am reminded that before me she dated a police officer. She spoke about how they put themselves in danger for us, and I agreed — I don’t think they are our enemy, but they are the tool of the 1%.

She talked about how she felt like she could not participate because she works for a major corporation in Austin, buys corporate goods, and other ways she participates in our capitalist system. But I responded that we are all forced to do that; the issue this movement has is not with the people working for hourly wages as tech support workers or bank tellers. The problem is the CEOs of those corporations who take home millions a year while others struggle to make ends meet — as she does, between rent, student loans, and other debts.

Of course, I know she also just worries about me and the risk I go through when I go to an encampment. I don’t plan to get arrested; my fibromyalgia makes it all but impossible for me to spend the night and would also make an overnight stay in a prison cell extremely painful — the kind of pain that might debilitate me for days. Yet I have to acknowledge that, with our protests growing more heated, that there is some risk when I take part. It’s a risk I feel is worth taking. Read the rest of this entry →

#OccupyAustin Takes to the Streets

4:23 pm in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

Yesterday in Oakland, tens of thousands of people took to the streets to speak up for their rights and to participate in a general strike. Marches and actions took place all around the world in solidarity with the activists. I joined Occupy Austin again for their march, and then attended my first general assembly that night.

It is inspiring to watch this movement grow and spread around the world. As police (and the Department of Homeland Security, by some reports) try to shut us down, it seems like each police raid and wave of arrests only makes us bolder. The Port of Oakland, one of the top ports in the US, shut down for a full 24 hours along with major downtown Oakland branches of banks like Bank of America, Chase and Citibank.

My friend Gyesika joined me at this march, and it was immediately clear that something was different from Sunday — there was a spirit there, a sense that we could take on the world. The Spirit of Oakland was in us, undoubtedly. For the first half of the march, we were orderly and obedient protesters, staying to the sidewalks and mostly waiting for lights to change.

We marched again to the County Jail, to remind the government of our presence and because this is a place where all of our activists can gather. Despite reassurances from the city, all our arrested activists are still banned from City Hall, where our occupation is taking place. These political prisoners must gather on a traffic island across the street which has a curfew of 10pm because it is technically a park.

As we gathered at the jail, we heard from one of those prisoners who talked about what he’d realized while in prison: Read the rest of this entry →