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City Gives Occupy Protestors Until Saturday To Clean Up Camp

By Matt Goodman, CBSDFW.COM
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Updated: 11/9/2011, 7:23 p.m.

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The city has given the Occupy Dallas camp until 5 p.m. Saturday to correct a number of violations to avoid having their contract agreement with the city severed.

First Assistant City Attorney Christopher Bowers sent Occupy’s legal representative a two-page memo on Tuesday detailing a number of actions that violate the group’s settlement agreement with the city, which allows them to set up camp on a grassy area to the south of City Hall.

The memo alleges that protestors have erected “semi-permanent structures and signs” on the property and used the restrooms at City Hall, both of which are not permitted under the settlement agreement.

The memo also says protestors have failed to pick up after themselves – City Manager Mary Suhm writes “feces and moldy, mildewy food is found on the ground at the camp” – and set up tents in inappropriate areas.

On Wednesday, the Occupy camp responded to the city’s ultimatum by “assessing the concerns” raised by Suhm and Bowers. Group spokesman Michael Prestonise said the Occupy camp has “been more than willing to engage in meaningful and productive interactions” with the city based on these concerns.

“OccupyDallas takes offense to the notion that the city is giving us the right to be on Dallas property,” read the group’s statement. “The city has recognized that the OccupyDallas encampment is a First Amendment Activity and is therefore protected under the First Amendment.”

The memo comes days after eight protestors were arrested during a protest at the Bank of America Building downtown. Three officers were injured, and protestor Stephen Benavides, 30, was charged with assaulting a public servant.

Seven others were arrested on more minor charges, including improper use of a sidewalk. The group has denounced the arrests, saying Benavides, an organizer with the United Steelworkers union, was pushed by police.

Conversely, city spokesman Frank Librio issued a statement over the weekend saying the protester “became aggressive and assaulted officers.”

In her memo, Suhm also cites Child Protective Services seizing a baby from the protest site last week, and the arrest of Richard Armstrong, 24, who faces a pair of felony charges for having sex with a 14-year-old girl in a tent and failing to register as a sex offender.

The city declared Armstrong’s arrest to be an outlier, and said they didn’t expect any similar cases out of the camp. Public safety, however, remains a concern for the city, as evidenced by Suhm’s memo.

“The Crisis Intervention unit of the Dallas Police Department has inspected the encampment on several occasions and remains concerned about the health and public safety of people at the camp, especially children,” Suhm wrote in her memo to the City Council.

The group now has until Saturday at 5 p.m. to correct the settlement violations or police will be allowed to take down tents and remove “other obstructions” on the city’s property.

The group began the protest on October 6 with a march to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

Here is the memo received by Occupy’s legal team and another one issued to the City Council:

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