AUSTIN (AP) – A pair of pre-dawn confrontations between Austin police and Occupy Austin protesters led to 38 arrests Sunday.
Most were charged with criminal trespass, Police Chief Art Acevedo said. No injuries were reported.
The first confrontation came about 12:30 a.m. Sunday when officers moved to enforce a new rule banning food tables in the City Hall plaza between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Some protesters surrounded the tables with arms linked.
Protesters had been advised of the food table ban on Friday, Assistant City Manager Michael McDonald said.
“We want to facilitate their activities,” he said of the Occupy Austin protesters, “but we can’t allow this to be a permanent campsite.”
Some protesters found the ban arbitrary. “On a night where there are hundreds of drunks driving around town, they have all these resources here to take down three food tables,” protester Dave Cortez told the newspaper.
“We were ready to work and negotiate and accommodate the city,” he said. “Instead, they decided to bring a bunch of police to remove some food tables, so all that went out the window.”
Another incident came about 2 a.m., when more than 50 police officers moved to clear an amphitheater on the plaza for a regular power-washing.
Most of the protesters remained peaceful and stayed out of the way of the cleaning, but some wouldn’t move and were arrested when confronting officers.
“We’re proud of how Austin has handled this occupation,” McDonald said. “Has it been perfect? No, it hasn’t. It’s very difficult because it’s very emotional.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)