Occupy Dallas Request for Restraining Order Denied - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

Occupy Dallas Request for Restraining Order Denied

Members of protest group drop off signs inside City Hall



    Occupy Dallas spent what could be its last night camped beside City Hall after a day of courtroom drama Tuesday.

    Even though a federal court judge allowed the city to move forward on its threats to evict the group, Mayor Mike Rawlings said in a statement Tuesday evening that no action would be taken that night.

    "The city has attempted to balance this group's First Amendment rights with the city’s responsibility to protect the activists and general public," he said. "Public safety and the health conditions at the encampment remain a paramount concern."

    Rawlings said lawyers for the city and Occupy Dallas would meet Wednesday.

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    In a Tuesday evening visit to the campsite, Occupy Dallas attorney Jonathan Winocour told the group that city officials might be open to letting the group stay longer.

    But he warned members that they must be completely dedicated to the protest's mission against big business influence on government. He said the city expects an immediate end to open marijuana and alcohol use and sex involving minors -- all of which have been reported at the camp.

    "Stop smoking marijuana on public property," Winocour said. "Stop drinking on public property. Stop fornicating with minors on public property."

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    Earlier in the day, Winocour visited the camp to deliver news of the courtroom defeat.

    "We lost in court, but we have not lost this battle," Winocour said then.

    U.S. District Judge Jane Boyle refused to grant Occupy Dallas a restraining order to block the city from evicting the group.

    The city has claimed Occupy Dallas violated an agreement permitting the camp until Dec. 14 by misusing the site and City Hall restrooms.

    Leaving the morning hearing, Chief Assistant City Attorney Chris Bowers said the only protection left to Occupy Dallas was a city agreement to do nothing about the sign or restroom complaints until after 4 p.m. Tuesday.

    "But other than that agreement -- which we will honor -- there would be nothing to stop the city from terminating the agreement if it wished to do so," he said.

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    After the hearing, Winocour said he was only hoping to negotiate warning of at least 24 hours before the city evicts his clients so they could continue their protest in some other way.

    "Figure out how to turn your movement from being an occupation in a park to being something more long-lasting that might actually affect some change in the long term in the country -- I think that's where we're looking at. That's where we go now," Winocour said as he left court.

    Occupy Dallas organizers said they were looking for a possible new campsite in case the group has to move.

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    "If we've got to move, we'll move," protester Veronica Navarro said. "It's OK. It's not the end of the world. We'll find a new place. We'll get our ground again, and we'll keep going forward, spreading the message."

    But at least some of the demonstrators said they would put up a fight if police force them to leave.

    "They'd probably have to remove me. I'm not going anywhere," said one protester who did not want to give his name.

    “It’s highly likely if they come in to remove us, we will have multiple arrests,” Aaron Stouder said.

    “Either way, if we decide to leave or they have us removed, we’re not done occupying a space in Dallas," he said. "We will move to another space. We’re not going to go home and shut up."

    Before their lawyer arrived for his second, more encouraging visit Tuesday evening, members of the group marched through City Hall and left behind as trash the signs that officials had cited as a violation in the camp.

    Members said it served as a symbolic cleansing of the camp.

    The signs had been used in Occupy Dallas protests at downtown banks.

    Dozens of Occupy Dallas members have been arrested at protests.

    But police are now reviewing video of a Nov. 5 arrest that suggests an off-duty police officer started a disturbance by shoving a demonstrator from a ledge at Bank of America Plaza.

    "If the occupants just fold on every issue, then I think, at some level, their occupation no longer carries a valid message of protest," Winocour said. "It just becomes conformist, and that's not a valid message of protest."

    NBC 5's Amanda Guerra and Randy McIlwain contributed to this report.