City Leaders Review Occupy Dallas Permit

Dallas rethinking permit after arrests over weekend

By Ken Kalthoff
|  Monday, Nov 7, 2011  |  Updated 7:51 PM CDT
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After a weekend where eight supporters were jailed, Occupy Dallas marches again on Bank of America.

Ken Kalthoff

After a weekend where eight supporters were jailed, Occupy Dallas marches again on Bank of America.

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Dallas city officials are reviewing the terms of the permit that allows Occupy Dallas demonstrators to camp beside City Hall in light of eight arrests over the weekend.

The protesters were arrested at Bank of America Plaza while demonstrating in support of "Move Your Money Day," a national protest against high fees charged by big banks.

Members of the group claim a police officer incited the disturbance by roughly removing a demonstrator from a ledge and then forcing him to the ground.

Most of the people arrested were charged with improper use of a sidewalk. Several of them remained in jail until early Monday morning.

About two-dozen Occupy Dallas demonstrators marched back to the Bank of America Plaza on Monday in protest of the arrests.

"We think it's obviously an unfair enforcement of a strange city ordinance that you would hold people for this long on a charge of improper use of a sidewalk," Occupy Dallas spokesman Michael Prestonise said.

Police reports said the arrests began when the protester attempted to hit and kick the officer.

"The group agreed to follow the law when the permit was granted," Mayor Mike Rawlings said. "Is it time for them to go? Are they making sure they're in accordance with the agreements that we laid out there?"

In the next few days, Dallas has two big downtown events planned, and city leaders do not want them disrupted.

A Veteran's Day Parade and the grand opening of the Dallas Omni Hotel are both scheduled for Friday.

"And my deal is, are we going to have a scrimmage, or whatever?" Councilman Tennell Atkins said.

Atkins also questions the city money and manpower that is devoted to protecting the Occupy Dallas camp and the group's demonstrations.

Additional police officers on motorcycles and bicycles arrived to escort Monday's march in addition to the officers who stand guard at the camp around the clock.

"They have a right to do what they're doing, but right now, we're taking a whole lot of resources from our citizens and our taxpayers," Atkins said.

Paramedics responded to the Bank of America Plaza during Monday's demonstration when one of the marchers sustained a serious injury as the result of what appeared to be a seizure.

City officials add Saturday's arrests to the 23 Occupy Dallas members arrested at an Oct. 24 demonstration at Chase Bank Tower.

And police said a convicted sex offender was arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting a 14-year old girl at the camp last month.

"When you sit on the public space, how do you control who is part of that group, who is not part of that group?" Atkins said.

Rawlings said all of it is now under review.

"We want to make sure we have the facts," he said. We've managed this right up until this point, and the next move, I think, is a key one. And we'll be ready to listen to their points of view as well."

Prestonise said police are to blame for the problems so far. Occupy Dallas expects the city to abide by the agreement, he said.

He said many people at the Occupy Dallas camp have jobs and leave during the day but return to the demonstration against big business influence on government, so it is difficult to know who is on the site at any given time.

"We don't have any kind of leadership structure that's corporate or what people are used to, so whenever you deal with direct democracy, you're going to have to deal with the fact that people have freedom of speech," he said.

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