DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The city severed its contract with Occupy Dallas protesters late Wednesday night, permitting dozens of police officers, in riot gear, to clear the encampment and arrest anyone who refused to leave after 1 a.m.
Some 18 protesters were arrested and taken away in police vans. At least seven people a the camp were homeless, so Dallas police assisted them with obtaining shelter.
City spokesman Frank Librio said, “For the safety of each individual at the encampment, the police and members of the public, it was determined to terminate the agreement and disband the encampment.”
The raid took about 45 minutes. The violent clashes between Occupy protesters and police in other cities were not duplicated in Dallas.
Just after rush hour Thursday morning, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings attended a homeless awareness breakfast at the new Omni Convention Center Hotel. When asked about the Occupy eviction he said, “We’ve supported the protesters rights for freedom of speech and they are more than welcome to make sure that they exercise that right, on public property. We cheer them on to make sure they have that right, but they’re not gonna be able to camp out.”
The City of Dallas issued a lengthy official statement. The city listed several reasons for the eviction, including – the continued violation of an agreement between the City of Dallas and Occupy Dallas legal representatives, criminal activity at the camp, trash buildup, inadequate sanitary conditions and “increasing dissension and strife” among Occupy Dallas participants.
The terms of the agreement said protesters were allowed to stay at the chosen encampment site as long as they kept the area clean and obeyed the law.
Read the entire City of Dallas statement below:
Occupy leaders began alerting protesters at about 11 p.m. that officers would be evicting protesters from their camp in a grassy area just south of Dallas City Hall.
Some protesters gradually left, while others began to congregate in the middle of the camp in what they described as a “peaceful show of strength.”
Police barricaded all the roads leading into City Hall at about 11:20 p.m. As protesters left, they were told they would not be allowed back.
News vans and reporters not already inside the encampment were blocked off at the south end of City Hall.
At about 12:15 a.m., a group of close to 12 police SUVs drove into downtown from department headquarters at 1400 South Lamar.
Scant protesters continued to trickle out. At about 12:20 a.m., a city truck brought in a lighting rig and close to 75 officers in riot gear surrounded the outskirts of the encampment.
At 12:30 a.m., officers began using bullhorns to warn protesters they would be arrested if they did not leave. They also warned any media inside the camp to exit or face arrest. Officers later said this was because they could not guarantee the safety of members of the media once police raided the camp.
At 1 a.m., about 40 protesters remained inside. Police moved in at about 1:05 a.m. They told protesters again to leave and that they would be allowed to retrieve any property left at the encampment later Thursday.
When officers moved in, they opened each tent and searched inside it. The few protesters who refused to leave were arrested in the raid. There was no violence, and police did not destroy any tents.
District 14 Councilwoman Angela Hunt said the City Council was not notified of the raid until 11:45 p.m. She called this poor communication, and said she was upset with City Manager Mary Suhm about the abrupt decision.
Late Wednesday, the city attorney’s office sent an eviction letter to Jonathan Winocour, Occupy Dallas’s lawyer.
In it, the city “terminates, cancels and rescinds the settlement agreement” that allowed the group to camp in the area behind City Hall. The group’s protest began with a march to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas on Oct. 6.
The eviction letter cites broken penal codes – likely the arrest of a man for sexual assault of a child and Child Protective Services removing a baby from a homeless couple in a tent – weapons being carried on the property; cooking on public property; “semi-permenant structures and signs” being built on-site; trash not being picked up; gas and fuel stored on-site; and when “more than four” protesters visited City Hall unannounced Tuesday asking for a meeting with City Manager Mary Suhm.
Read the full notice below: