Friday, July 25, 2014

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Occupy, APD agree cooperation is needed

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YNN's Jess Mitchell spoke with demonstrators and police about where things should go from here. Click the video above to watch.

Update:
In the wake of the 38 overnight arrests at Occupy Austin, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo and Assistant City Manager Michael McDonald held a press conference to express their appreciation for the demonstration’s non-violence attitude, but also their regret that the situation led to so many demonstrators arrested.

The press conference was held at 12:00 p.m. Sunday at APD Headquarters.

“The arrests that took place last night, that’s not something that we wanted to see happen,” Assistant City Manager Michael McDonald said. “Our goal from the beginning of this was to work with the protesters and work through all of this without having a single arrest.”

At the center of the tension between the demonstrators and the police is a memorandum distributed to Occupy Austin Friday. The memorandum, issued from the City Manager’s office, listed five new rules to be followed by the continued occupation of City Hall.

One of the new rules ordered demonstrators to dismantle any food tables and put them away between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. each night. The protesters refusal to do so Saturday night led to 18 of the night’s 38 arrests.

“Once you’re given the criminal trespassing warning, you either comply or engage in civil disobedience. That’s what 38 folks did yesterday and that’s why they were arrested,” Chief Acevedo said.

McDonald further defended the actions taken by the City.

“Although they have the right to protest, City Hall and the grounds belong to everyone, so anyone should be able to come there and feel comfortable and be able to conduct business,” the assistant manager said. “We’ve tried to create that environment where they could do that and the members of Occupy Austin can still exercise their constitutional right.”

Shortly after, Carl Lindemann with the Occupy Austin media team held a press conference outside. He said miscommunication played a large role in the overnight skirmish.

“It seems like there should have been some communication because we do like to take care of our and we would take great pride in saving the city a great deal of money,” Lindemann said. “Our desire is to be as lawful as can be. Much of the interest here is that we want to be on a moral basis to challenge what we feel were the lawless actions by the financial industry and by being lawless you don’t really have that moral standing.”

According to Chief Acevedo, the 38 arrested were charged with criminal trespassing and should be released Sunday afternoon.

Click below for the entire press conference held at APD headquarters Sunday.

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Earlier:

A total of 38 Occupy Austin demonstrators were arrested in front of City Hall early Sunday morning.

The arrests began just after midnight when Austin Police officers moved to confiscate a table used to hold food.

Friday, demonstrators were given a memorandum from the City Manager’s Office offering a list of new rules. Number four states food tables are not permanent fixtures and that from 10:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. each night, tables are to be taken down.

Saturday night, demonstrators refused to dismantle the food table as a push against the new rules the city imposed. Just after midnight, officers moved to take the table, arresting between 16 and 20 demonstrators who stood in the way.

“We feed people all day long, so the table is pretty important to us to actually be able to hand out food in a clean way,” Occupy Austin Outreach member Ronnie Garza said. “A number of individuals decided to try to prevent the police from taking the food table, so they formed a ring around it. That’s when they (police) started pulling people out arresting them.”

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Just after 2 a.m., police returned to clear the way for power washing crews to clean the area in front of City Hall. Starting at the top of the stairs, APD officers formed a line and marched down step-by-step, arresting any demonstrators refusing to leave.

“We steam clean the plaza for health and safety reasons three times a week. The Occupy Austin members have always been very cooperative,” Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said. “Tonight, it looks like a few people decided to exercise civil disobedience and have been arrested.”

The demonstrators questioned the legitimacy of Friday’s memorandum.

“We’re all being educated at the moment as to the legality of these rules that were imposed out here,” Garza said. “A number believe they were not passed through any sort of City Council vote. These were arbitrary rules that came from City Hall which is what spurred people to resist in a non-violent way.”

Acevedo said he appreciates the activist spirit, but at the end of the day, the job comes first.

“Austin is very fortunate that we have an activist community that understands that violence doesn’t get you anything,” Acevedo said. “Early on in this, I’ve told folks, ‘We’re very kind, but we’re going to do our job.’”

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