Protestor Accused of Assaulting Cop Now Accused of Punching a Fellow Occupier
|Photo by Brantley Hargrove|
And according to the account, written by Occupy Dallas spokesman Michael Prestonise, and subsequent interviews, Wilcox was assaulted by none other than Stephen Benavides, the very man charged with assaulting a public servant and resisting arrest after that off-duty Dallas Police officer appeared to shove him from the planter at the downtown Bank of America.
According to Wilcox, Prestonise's account and the Dallas Police report, several Occupiers and their attorney, Jonathan Winocour, were meeting at BuzzBrews in Deep Ellum Tuesday evening -- just an informal, what's-next planning session. But at some point their "political discussion" (per DPD's account) turned into a full-blown argument, which turned into an assault on the Commerce Street sidewalk. Says Wilcox: "It just went down the rabbit hole pretty quickly."
Here's Prestonise's account:
As a dozen members of the group, including supporters Wilcox and attorney Jonathan Winocour, engaged in conversation, an argumentative Benavides approached and began criticizing them for their involvement. "You're not a part of the 99%" shouted Benavides. He went on to demand the expulsion of two members of the Media work group on the grounds that they were "elitists" and criticized them for inadequate food preparations at the camp. As Wilcox and the other members present attempted to de-escalate the situation, Benavides lunged forward and violently assaulted the supporter. After striking him in the face several times, Benavides turned and ran from the scene.Winocour tells Unfair Park he never saw the attack. He was inside having coffee when, "next thing I know there's a cop car outside and someone said Stephen was in a fight." DPD had already been called to BuzzBrews earlier in the evening when one Occupier said Benavides was "making threats of violence," according to the department. Wilcox says BuzzBrews's owner asked Benavides to leave. But he returned later, a little past 9, and found Wilcox and others outside, talking. Wilcox said he called them "conservative moderates" and insisted, repeatedly, "I am a revolutionary."
At which point the DPD report has Benavides punching Wilcox twice -- on the left side of his neck, then again on his right ear. It also says he was choked to the point where he was "unable to breath[e]." Wilcox says he did nothing, just stood there with his arms folded. Then, he tells Unfair Park, he took "two, three more hits bent over the planter box with someone holding me up so I wouldn't go over."
(Update at 2:32 p.m.: Benavides has sent a very lengthy statement, which follows in full. Its title: "Occupy Dallas Self-Proclaimed Leaders Seek To Create the 'Tea Party for the Democrats.'")
Wilcox says Occupy Dallas posted its account to get ahead of the story -- and to show the group will not tolerate violence from its members, even its most visible and vocal.
"We've stressed the non-violent nature of Occupy Dallas, and any violence as a whole needs to be addressed," Wilcox says. "Its unacceptable regardless of how bad a week or month he's having. We appreciate the DPD and our relationship with them. It isn't malicious toward him. Its an event that occured, and everyone has to deal with the consequences of their actions. It's unfortunate. It sucks all around. Stephen's a great guy, but he'll have to deal with the consequences of his actions. Violence is never the answer."
Prestonise writes in his account that "this episode of violent rage highlights the issue of radical individuals attempting to incite violence among fellow protesters." Winocour prefers instead to refer to Benavides as "a passionate young man" dealing with the aftermath of his brother Jesse's murder last month. And though he's bruised and banged up this morning, and on his way to DPD HQ for a chat with detectives at this very moment, Wilcox likewise has nice things to say about Benavides.
"This isn't anybody going after Stephen," he says. "I've had interactions with him literally every day when I go down to the camp. He's been very supportive of the Occupy movement and has been a great organizer when he's organized events. But it's a shitty situation. He's been a good part of this for the most part, and for it to come down like this is a crappy way for him to resolve a situation. It's a crappy muddling of everything."
Incidentally, Winocour says he met with Dallas city attorneys this morning, including First Assistant City Attorney Chris Bowers, and says that "nothing has changed" following yesterday's ruling by U.S. District Judge Jane Boyle. "There is no impending doom, I've been told." A message has been left for Bowers.
Statement from Stephen Benavides About 11/15/2011 Assault on Occupy Dallas Protester