Occupy Dallas Can Stay if They Don't Break Any Laws

Future violations could result in eviction

By Ken Kalthoff
|  Wednesday, Nov 16, 2011  |  Updated 8:59 PM CDT
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Occupy Dallas protestors are trying to police themselves in order to ensure the survival of the campsite behind City Hall.

Ken Kalthoff, NBC 5 News

Occupy Dallas protestors are trying to police themselves in order to ensure the survival of the campsite behind City Hall.

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Occupy Can Stay if They Stay Clean

For now, Occupy Dallas can stay at their camp as long as they stay clean and obey the law.
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Dallas officials are keeping an "hour-by-hour" watch over the Occupy Dallas camp at City Hall, the mayor said Wednesday.

Mayor Mike Rawlings said the city is still concerned about public safety at the protest camp.

"Our folks are out there all the time," he said. "The police force is very present out there, and we feel we know what's going on out there."

Occupy Dallas attorney Jonathan Winocour met with city lawyers Wednesday morning and left with the impression the group would be permitted to remain at the camp through the original agreement's end date of Dec. 14, provided members behave properly and break no laws.

"The occupation remains on the city's tolerance, so to speak," he said. "If the city decides the occupation needs to go, the occupation needs to go. That's what I understand the city's message to be. I've told the occupants to remain vigilant, to do what they can."

Meanwhile, members say they have been working harder to police themselves.

Occupy Dallas members said they asked Stephen Benavides, who was arrested at a Nov. 5 demonstration, to leave the camp Tuesday night.

Benavides was charged with assaulting a police officer, but later that officer was placed under investigation when a YouTube video showed the officer shoving Benavides first.

Occupy Dallas members said Benavides got physical with a demonstrator Tuesday night.

Benavides was still sending e-mail Wednesday claiming to be an Occupy Dallas member and accused others of relaxing their protest against big business influence.

At the camp, new signs warn members about following rules.

"We've actually given multiple individuals multiple chances at redeeming themselves, and they have not, so now a little more organization, a little more structure is being put into effect," member Ameer Whadan said.

Last week, city officials said the group violated its agreement with the city by misusing the campsite and repeatedly breaking the law. Open marijuana use, open containers of alcohol and an alleged sexual assault of a minor have all been reported at the camp.

A federal judge on Tuesday refused to block the city's threat to evict the camp from city property.

High-ranking Dallas police officials continually patrol the area, and many extra officers are posted around City Hall as though they are ready to take action at any moment.

Some city leaders complain police resources are being wasted on the demonstration and believe it should be closed.

"I don't think it's fair to our taxpayers to have that many police officers watching them," Councilman Tennell Atkins said. "They could be doing things better."

Rawlings said watching the group is not a drain on city safety at this point.

"The moment we think neighborhoods aren't being protected because of this, it would stop," he said.

The group hopes it would receive warning of any police action to close the camp, but City Manager Mary Suhm said on Wednesday "not necessarily."

City officials say Occupy Dallas has been warned.

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