An Offended Occupy Dallas Responds to City's Demands; Last Arrestee Due Out of Jail Today

Categories: City Hall
occupy_city_hall_camp_2011-2.jpg
Photo by Chris Howell
At the end of business yesterday City Hall sent that memo from City Manager Mary Suhm and that letter from First Assistant City Attorney Chris Bowers. Both said more or less the same thing: Occupy Dallas has till 5 p.m. Saturday to clean up its mess behind Dallas City Hall, or else the group will be told to git off city property per that agreement signed last month. The docs arrived not long after I'd spoken with some city officials who said Mayor Mike Rawlings is quickly losing patience with the Occupiers, to whom he'd already given one strike and wasn't about to let go to a full count.

So, now comes this: a missive in response from Occupy Dallas, which this morning posted to its Facebook page a note that it's offended by "the notion that the city is giving us the right to be on Dallas property." The press release, written by Glynn Wilcox, is a variation on that earlier posting. It reads:
"In response to the letter from the City of Dallas, OccupyDallas would like to reiterate our commitment to abide by the agreement between OccupyDallas and the City. As Dallas citizens, and per our agreement, OccupyDallas is assessing the concerns that Manager Suhm and First Assistant City Attorney Bowers have raised.

"OccupyDallas takes offense to the notion that the city is giving us the right to be on Dallas property. The city has recognized that the OccupyDallas encampment is a First Amendment Activity and is therefore protected under the First Amendment. OccupyDallas has been more than willing to engage in meaningful and productive interactions with City Staff and those on the Council including the Mayor's Office. We have repeatedly made the invitation for anyone to address the General Assembly or speak directly with individuals conforming to the agreement that only a limited number of members may enter city hall to speak with staff or our elected city officials."
I asked Occupy Dallas media contact Michael Prestonise to be more specific. And he was, saying this afternoon that OD's attorneys are "working up a draft proposal to take to the court" that would alter the language of the original agreement with the city.

He says much of the contract is "arbitrary, vague and ambiguous," and he believes the city is trying to penalize the Occupiers unnecessarily. Such as: "The part about them finding feces on the ground? I know people that aren't Occupy Dallas walk their pets through the park, and obviously Occupy Dallas can't be responsible for people not picking up after their dogs."

Prestonise says the group "will uphold and carry through on our end of the deal," but then adds this: "The mayor said on TV last night the city has granted us permission ... to occupy the park, but since the city has said this is a First Amendment activity, we hold we do not need the permission of the city. The Constitution gives us the right to occupy a public space for peaceable assembly."

In other, very related news: Stephen Bevanides, the man charged with assaulting a public official at Saturday's downtown run-in with DPD, is being released from Lew Sterrett today at around 4:30, 5 p.m. There will be a press conference at 6.
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49 comments
Rosco O'Toole
Rosco O'Toole

Stephen Benavides should be released immediately. He was specifically targeted by the police and was physically dragged by the police into the street to be beaten and arrested. It was a blatant attempt by authorities to cut the head off of the beast that is Occupy. Occupy is many things but it is NOT A VIOLENT movement. BTW: I was standing 5 feet from Stephen when he was grabbed so this is EYEWITNESS testimony.

Please join Occupy on their next march...

If you r not Local? MARCH WITH OCCUPY EVERY SATURDAY!!!!

RTGolden
RTGolden

Free speech, even symbolic speech, has to present a clear message to be protected under the first amendment.  Pitching a tent, not bathing, and generally wasting time doesn't really project a very clear message (unless your message is that you're unemployed and intend to remain so).  Of course, that's no surprise, because the ODers aren't fond of being clear about their positions, or even being clear whether or not they HAVE any positions.The city is well within its jurisdiction to remove them from the park.  The no camping ordinance does not violate first amendment protections because it is a broad ordinance, not just aimed at this particular group of people, but at everyone.  Also the ordinance is specific in its proscriptions; it defines hours when the park is not open for public activity.  The ordinance presents a good cause for prohibiting camping in city parks, public safety and welfare.  Those are the three tenets the Supreme Court will look for.

ThaDude
ThaDude

And don't forget, the City "conveniently" left out the word "DOG" before the word feces, purposely making it look like Occupy Dallas protesters were crapping on the lawn.

ThaDude
ThaDude

Actually, the 1st Amendment trumps city ordinances, such as park curfews. Occupying the park 24/7 is clearly freedom of expression, witnessed by the nationwide (and even global) belief of the Occupy movement. Occupy Dallas agreed to work with the city just to keep things amiable, not to sacrifice 1st Amendment rights. Whether you agree with their ideals or not, surely you agree with the 1st Amendment.

Max from the Sandspit
Max from the Sandspit

Hey Robert- We've secured a case of flea and tick collars for your ODers. Where the hell do we send them, certainly not general delivery Dallass. Lookin' foreward for a good address.

Mike
Mike

Doesn't the city have laws against having your dog tied to a stake in the ground outside your home?  Start up the water cannons.  We have to protect that pooch.

Laurens Labia
Laurens Labia

which is exactly what was happening in that Occupy Portland video posted earlier

Mike
Mike

We are the same as stockholders.  Just because we own the company does not mean we can just start using the assets as we see fit.  We elect management to set the rules.  If we want to change the rules we either talk to or change management.  Supreme Court has not indicated we have the right to just grab and use our property to the exclusion of others.  Camping by definition excludes the use for one group.  That's why it's different from other protests.  The city just needs to move these people out, let them file their suit, and we move on.  We are tired of threats.  Have them pull the pin out of the grenade and let the courts make a definitive decision.  Hopefully they'll say the elected leaders have control and any other groups will have to find other ways to be obnoxious.

Nachocheeselady
Nachocheeselady

Looking for any reason to breach the contract. Typical.

Albert
Albert

"OccupyDallas takes offense to the notion that the city is giving us the right to be on Dallas property..."I take offense to the notion that they think we're this stupid. They are not "on Dallas property", they are "camping on Dallas property, where camping is not allowed".

The city did not "give a right", the city "granted special privilege" with contractual specifications.

This movement hasn't just jumped the shark, they're using the shark as a trampoline.

J. Erik Jonsson
J. Erik Jonsson

Free speech, even symbolic speech, has to present a clear message to be protected under the first amendment.

false

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

If memory serves me the city is constantly crapping on it's citizens who voted them into office and with their tax dollars pay their salaries.    I am tempted to check the place out myself with a visit.    Should be able to take the DART train down to the convention center and walk to city hall and see for myself.

RTGolden
RTGolden

The ODers have dogs in the camp.  They are responsible for cleaning up after their dogs as well as themselves.  If they want to 'occupy', they have to take responsibility for their occupation.  If someone else's dog craps in the grass, either make them pick up after it, or pick it up yourself.

PlanoDave
PlanoDave

How do you know that they aren't?

PlanoDave
PlanoDave

Nice try, but fail.

Park curfews fall under the heading of legitimate "Time, Place, and Manner" restrictions to free speech.

If OD wants to challenge it in court, they may win, but they have to get the case into the courts and pay for the lawyer fees to fight it as far as the City of Dallas can with its staff of lawyers through the appeals process.  Even if they win, it will take months, if not years, for a verdict.

RTGolden
RTGolden

You mean the ODers right?  The ones who agreed to not mess with the temporary fencing around the trees, but the city has to repair or replace it daily because they keep tearing it down.  Or maybe the ODers who are piling trash inside those fences?  Pull your head out of the microwave and adjust your tinfoil, please.

Tiggerrrr01
Tiggerrrr01

dallas property?? tax payer property.

Sybils_Beaver
Sybils_Beaver

they lost the right to their constitutional right to assemble peacefully when they signed the agreement to behave on that property.  no one ever claimed they were smart

J. Erik Jonsson
J. Erik Jonsson

Please believe that I have no sympathy for these useful idiots, but they have a good point.  A city park is a perfect (and perfectly Constitutionally protected) place to exercise free speech.  They're using their constant presence as a form of protest to draw attention to their (utterly moronic) complaints and demands.  It's more than mere camping.  The camping itself is free expression.

Now there will come a point when camping is merely camping and they should get booted, but I'm not sure we're there yet, and I sure as hell don't want the city spending my tax dollars to find out in court when camping is more than camping.

RTGolden
RTGolden

Oops, I clicked on the wrong 'reply' button.  J.Erik and Mott, please look directly above for my reply.  Thank you.

Mott Romney
Mott Romney

Agreed. Who defines the "clear message," RT? You? What does that even mean? Was Rosa Parks just loitering on a bus?

RTGolden
RTGolden

Not to mention that is a slippery argument to make.  Kind of like "my religion requires me to sacrifice unwashed, unemployed public campers, and the 1st amendment protects my right to do so.  The 2nd amendment protects my right to own the weapons I will use to execute these sacrifices"

RTGolden
RTGolden

No, you can't.  That's the difference between a socially responsible democracy, and moron anarchists.

ThaDude
ThaDude

Because the protesters aren't animals. And they know they have to walk around the camp every day. Have you been out there? Cuz it sounds like you don't know who these people are.

Mott Romney
Mott Romney

Perhaps, but keep in mind: (1) ODers have volunteer lawyers; and (2) it probably won't take much for a federal judge to grant them a temporary injunction to stay in the park pending appeals. 

 Put aside the fact that you either like the message, don't like the message, or have no idea what the message may be. In just the past year, the Supreme Court has allowed Westboro Baptist to picket funerals and video game manufacturers to sell ultra-violent video games to minors. 

It wasn't a First Amendment case, but remember the Bonus Army of the 1930s?  WWI veterans who occupied the parks in Washington D.C. for months in an attempt to get their pensions.

RTGolden
RTGolden

It was a three legged dog last saturday, I wonder if there is an ADA approved, handicap accessible dog park in the area?

Albert
Albert

If you look closely at signage in public spaces such as this park, there are regulations and city ordinances specified.

The taxpayers paid the City of Dallas to write regulations concerning use of the public space and to maintain the space.

The City of Dallas chose to grant the protestors a waiver to regulations, they have no "right" to camp there.

Y'all have to revisit the concept of "civil disobedience". Hint: this ain't it.

Foreverzero89
Foreverzero89

these people are taxpayers and citizens of dallas, by own own logic then they have the right to be there. 

Albert
Albert

That's the point, there are no Constitutional issues here, they have been granted a privilege and have failed to hold up their end of the bargain.

Had I the time and the tent and the inclination, I'd go down and pitch a FOX NEWS RULES! tent and broadcast Hannity all day, just to test their sense of "rights" in relation to public spaces.

Try that in Boston or DC or Atlanta or NYC, and you'd not make it through the first night, the "security" at these events, like most leftist events, is very Stalinist in practice.

I've covered many a lefty party through the years, Free Huey, Free the Seven, the Crawford/Bush/Sheehan fest.

If you are not of their ideology, you are going to have trouble. Leftist political activists can be very, very aggressive and dangerous if provoked by freedom of expression which is not in line with their ideology.

Give them enough time to form a society within a society, and that society will be totalitarian in nature. Guaranteed.

Albert
Albert

The point where camping became merely camping is the point when the first tent was pitched.

The city chose to accommodate these people, they had no legal requirement whatsoever to do so, certainly not on 1st Amendment grounds.

The city would win in court, but as you say, it would cost the city, meaning the taxpayer, and if there's one thing this OD movement has accomplished, costing the taxpayer is about it.

In other news, this national movement began on Sept 17, 2011. Just for yuks, Google "Sept.  17, 1920". Coincidence?

Mott Romney
Mott Romney

You correctly quote Texas v. Johnson, but you're only taking one aspect of their expression -- the campout -- and ignoring the rest.   You have to view the entire message, in context.  The ODers do, after all, claim that America is in the toilet thanks to big banks and the richest 1% of Americans.  Or something along those lines.  They are not just out there roasting marshmallows. 

Interesting that you picked Texas v. Johnson, which involves the City of Dallas losing on the issue.  In Johnson, after a march through the city streets, a guy burned an American flag in response to Republicans re-nominating Ronald Reagan in 1984.  Many observers were offended.  The City of Dallas arrested him, citing an ordinance on deseceration of the flag.  (They also claimed he was about to incite a riot, but the Supremes noted there wasn't really any evidence of that.)

The Supreme Court tossed his conviction, holding that burning a flag -- and nothing more -- was a form of expression protected by the First Amendment, given the context under which it happened -- outside of the GOP convention in Dallas in 1984.

RTGolden
RTGolden

Here you go, Supreme Court majority opinion in Texas v. Johnson, please note the line about rejecting a limitless variety of conduct being labeled speech:

The First Amendment literally forbids the abridgment only of "speech," but we have long recognized that its protection does not end at the spoken or written word. While we have rejected "the view that an apparently limitless variety of conduct can be labeled 'speech' whenever the person engaging in the conduct intends thereby to express an idea,"  we have acknowledged that conduct may be "sufficiently imbued with elements of communication to fall within the scope of the First and Fourteenth Amendments."In deciding whether particular conduct possesses sufficient communicative elements to bring the First Amendment into play, we have asked whether "[a]n intent to convey a particularized message was present, and [whether] the likelihood was great that the message would be understood by those who viewed it."The ODers may be able to convince each other that camping in the park conveys a symbolic message, possibly even the media.  I'm not so sure they can convince the courts of that, I know they haven't convinced me.  They need to get rid of their utopian idea that they are a blanket organization accepting any and all who have some sort of grievance and decide upon a clear issue they are protesting by camping there.  Then all they have to do, in my opinion, is abide by their agreement with the city, leave the temp. fencing around the trees alone and keep the park clean. (They're living there, stop blaming others for messing up your house.)

PlanoDave
PlanoDave

No, they aren't animals.  I don't see them as the paragon of civility, either.

Yes, I have been out there.  The difference between that group and the homeless box shelters under the freeway overpasses a few years back is that they have tents instead of boxes.  The "residents" look pretty much the same, and smell the same, and have about the same level of intelligence and articulation.

RTGolden
RTGolden

Keep in mind, Washington DC is, first and foremost, a military district.  They have law enforcement and their mayor, council etc, but Congress decides their city budget and the military can commandeer the civilian police anytime it is deemed necessary.  The civilian government of DC, during the Bonus Army protest in the 30's basically told the military "this is your mess, in your district, you fix it. (and don't destroy any historically significant buildings or damage any of the herbaceous borders in the process)"

Mott Romney
Mott Romney

No doubt.  That gets into the whole "the City is trying to do indirectly what they can't do directly" versus "What?  We're just watering the grass" debate.  Bring your popcorn to the hearing.

PlanoDave
PlanoDave

You are right about the injunction, but that wouldn't keep the City of Dallas from turning the sprinklers back on at 4 am every morning, or sending cleaning crews through there with leaf blowers at 2 am every morning if the city really wants them gone.

Albert
Albert

Someone probably ate the dog's leg.

cp
cp

Are you sure that they are all citizens and taxpayers of Dallas proper? How many are from the suburbs? Or other parts of Texas? Or other parts of the US? 

Albert
Albert

They have no "right" to camp there. It is a privilege granted by the city.

I'm not sure why this is so hard to grasp, but given the astounding economic and political ignorance at the core of this movement, it is unsurprising.

Laurens Labia
Laurens Labia

which is exactly what was happening in that Occupy Portland video posted earlier

RTGolden
RTGolden

No, to me camping doesn't present a message.  Perhaps I'm some sort of slack-jawed redneck, but what they're doing in the campsite doesn't illustrate any of the points they're trying to make with their protests.  All it really does illustrate, in my opinion, is that they want special dispensation, i.e. they want to be treated differently, better, than 99% of the rest of us.

J. Erik Jonsson
J. Erik Jonsson

T/P/M restrictions have to be reasonable, which means the city can't win on summary judgment which means that a judge should probably grant injunctive relief to prevent the enforcement of the no camping ordinance while the court decides what's reasonable.  No one has tested the camping-as-message argument, but doesn't it seem reasonable?  This is simply not a slam dunk, and if it's your money paying for the lawyers to answer the question, you can't honestly tell me you'd spend it.

Mott Romney
Mott Romney

You accurately cite the Supreme Court holding, but if the Supremes are going to let Westboro Baptist picket funerals, what makes you think they'd let the City eject the ODers over some vague complaints about cluttering up the park? 

RTGolden
RTGolden

Wrong.  Occupy is looking at the Constitution through rose-colored glasses.  The Supreme Court has held that municipal governments have the right to restrict the expression of free speech using "proper time,place and manner" ordinances, as long as the ordinances don't restrict content.  Those ordinances already exist, and already have SC blessing.  The ordinances are general in nature, and not specifically aimed at abrogating the ODers constitutional rights.

If camping is to be considered symbolic Free Speech, what is the message being conveyed, and to what audience?  OD can't even sit down and present a clear VERBAL message, much less a non-verbal one.  A bunch of people camping in the grass at city hall does not clearly tell me that 1% of the population is hoarding ##% of the wealth.  It tells me that a couple of dozen people need jobs.

J. Erik Jonsson
J. Erik Jonsson

You're looking at it in reverse, which is the point of Occupy's letter.  The city must show that its regulations concerning use of the park do not infringe on the 1st amendment.  The city can make reasonable time/place/manner restrictions, but the question in the court would wind up being one of whether the no camping rule was reasonable if the camping itself was being used as free expression.  That's not a slam dunk for the city and certainly not a question that's worth my tax dollars to answer.

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