Occupy Dallas protesters were evicted early Thursday morning after the demonstration at a campsite near City Hall reached a "tipping point" that included an offsite dispute between two participants, escalating offenses and unsanitary conditions, Dallas police Chief David Brown said.
Brown said police arrested 18 people for violating the city ordinance against people sleeping or being on public property from midnight to 5 a.m. He said that police gave protesters about 90 minutes to clear out before officers made arrests.
"I think we ended up with the best circumstances. The people that ended up getting arrested wanted to be arrested as a statement about their protest," Brown said at a news conference.
The camp shutdown came on a day that saw demonstrations across the nation to mark two months since the movement's birth in a lower Manhattan park. Protesters were also arrested near Wall Street in New York and in Los Angeles.
Occupy Dallas protesters have said they were trying to raise awareness about what they say is corporate greed and economic inequality. The demonstrators, under an Oct. 17 deal with the city, were allowed to stay at the site as long as they kept the area clean and obeyed the law.
The city last week accused protesters of violating an agreement to allow the campsite near Dallas City Hall by putting up semi-permanent structures and signs, using City Hall restrooms and not properly collecting trash. Concerns were also raised about criminal activity alleged to have happened there.
A federal judge on Tuesday refused to issue an order that would have blocked removal of the campsite, but Jonathan Winocour, who represents some of the protesters, had said Wednesday that they'd reached an agreement with the city that they could stay at the campsite four more weeks as long as they obeyed the law.
Brown though said Thursday that the situation "just became untenable."
The city noted some of offenses that have occurred in relation to the demonstrators included: the arrests of almost two dozen demonstrators for blocking the entrance to a bank, arrest of a participant charged with failing to register as a sex offender and sexual assault of a child after being accused of having sex with a 14-year-old runaway at the camp, arrests for assault and public intoxication and a 9-month-old child taken into protective custody after the parents were living the campsite with the child.
Winocour said he was disappointed with the way it ended and thought the police presence when protesters were evacuated from the camp was too much. He did not know what the future of the Dallas movement would be.
Brown defended the police presence, saying that during past arrests outside banks the protesters would go limp and lock arms, so two to three officers were needed to carry them.
Brown estimated that there were 50 to 75 people at the campsite Wednesday night. He did not give an exact number of officers but said the police force was a ratio of two to three officers for the anticipated number of people at the campsite expected to be arrested.
"We were at the number we needed to be at to safely and effectively make the arrest," he said.
Brown said that a decision was made late Wednesday by police and city officials that the campsite needed to be closed. Included in the decision was concern over an incident between two members of the group Tuesday night in which, according to a police report, one man struck and choked another outside a restaurant during a political discussion. Brown noted Thursday that the person who struck the other had threatened more violence.
Brown said authorities found "the most unsanitary conditions you can imagine" at the campsite, including human waste.
Brown, who said no overtime was needed for officers to shut down the camp, said that he'd been in contact with other police chiefs across the country on the best tactics to deal with the demonstrations.
The chief said that while he felt authorities had had pretty good communication with the demonstrators, he noted that the group is "fractured and fragmented."
"We've done all we could do to make this work," Brown said.
About two dozen Occupy Dallas protesters gathered outside police headquarters Thursday morning. Demonstrator Michael Curtis, 58, of Dallas, said he was sleeping at the campsite last night when he got word that the police were clearing it out and he left the site. He thought the protesters could have given more notice.
"They could have said `Thursday, be out by 9 a.m.,"' he said.
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