Saturday evening, the Austin Police Department used an unnecessarily large police presence to intimidate Occupy Austin protesters who were legally and peaceably gathered at City Hall. Occupy Austin held its regularly scheduled General Assembly at 7pm which complied with the new rules, imposed unilaterally by City Manager, Marc Ott, prohibiting free speech between 10pm and 6 am. During the meeting, the Assembly reached consensus that rather than reacting to the eviction, Occupy members would bring proposals to Monday night’s General Assembly with concrete ideas on how the movement will continue to move forward. In compliance with the new rules the General Assembly officially ended at 9 pm. Following the conclusion of the Assembly, approximately 100 Occupiers left City Hall in order to participate in a previously planned march to conclude with a rally at the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH) in solidarity with, and in support of, the members of the Austin Community that are experiencing homelessness.
After a silent march, protesters rallied at the ARCH, located at 500 E 7th street, on the corner 7th and Neches. The rally was interrupted by an assortment of police vehicles accompanied by around 4 dozen police officers. Not desiring a confrontation with the police, Occupiers stopped the rally and peacefully walked away from the ARCH. Police then lined up along San Jacinto and 6th street in what appeared to be an attempt to corner the group. Occupiers continued to peaceably walk and eventually dispersed into smaller groups. At one point, some Occupiers entered two 6th street venues with the intention of enjoying what remained of their Saturday evening. APD dispatched more than 20 officers to both entrances of the venues. As of this press release there are no reports of arrests. Additional police presence remained at City Hall well after the march in which officers allowed citizens who were well dressed to use the space to pass through and forced those who were casually dressed to walk around the property (a video of the incident is attached).
Occupy Austin is condemning the use of taxpayer money on frivolous and excessive APD presence. Occupy Austin stands with Austinites who are suffering because of a lack of city services such as shelters and affordable housing. The silent march and rally last night illustrated, once again, that the City of Austin has no solution to homelessness except pushing people from one place to another. Occupy Austin asks the city to use its resources to benefit Austinites, not to intimidate them through excessive police force. The Occupy Austin movement is, as it always has been, a non-violent protest against the way that our government, on all levels, chooses force over creating real solutions to real problems. Occupy Austin believes that much of this inaction is driven by corporate greed. The Occupy movment is continuing to fight for all Austinites to bring about positive changes that will enable true democracy to prevail over corporate interests.