FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 7th, 2012

CONTACTS:

Peter Cooper – peterppehrc@gmail.com

Tent City Rising banner at ‘the Grotto’, one of the abandoned properties occupied by the group on October 6, 2012 (Photo: Kit O’Connell).

Police Waste Taxpayer Money Persecuting Homeless, Disrupting Occupy Austin Celebration

In celebration of Occupy Austin’s October 6 anniversary, the Ending Homelessness Working Group erected a Tent City which would house people currently without homes, emphasizing the failure by the City of Austin to respect human rights and the dignity of all of Austin. Austin Police Department pursued about 60 peaceful protesters and instigated three arrests.

“Tent City held a space overnight, even after three prior evictions from other unused land. We are organizing towards October 10th and World Homeless Action Day to occupy vacant land or buildings to house our people and build community,” says Occupy Austin Ending Homelessness Working Group member Jesse Greiner.

“We need a Tent City because the shelters are full. Women and children are sleeping in cars in parking lots and on the streets. Tent City is a temporary transitional housing project while people are waiting for a job or affordable housing to be built.” stated Occupy Austin End Homelessness Working Group member Valerie Romness.

Tent City Rises began with a rally at Highland Mall. Members of Occupy Austin including local homeless residents gathered and were confronted by APD officers and private mall security. Approximately 12 police cruisers arrived on scene, and officers directed protesters to leave the privately owned property. One demonstrator, Luke Smith, was arrested as police swept the parking lot. Joshua Pineda of the Peaceful Streets Project, who was filming the police, allegedly stepped back into the lot then back onto the sidewalk. At this point the police pulled him off the sidewalk and into the parking lot and then arrested him as well.

The remaining activists marched to the abandoned Home Depot building near St. Johns and IH-35, where they erected two tents and picketed outside the gated property. The City of Austin previously used this property to house members of Occupy Austin in February when they were evicted from Austin City Hall steps. 12 police vehicles arrived on the property and asked those who parked in the lot to remove their vehicles. As they went to retrieve their vehicles, police placed them in handcuffs, then released them with criminal trespass warnings. Police closed the gates and, after about 15 minutes, a group of officers came out to one of the erected tents. As Jeremy Crutz emerged from the tent, the Police forced him face down on the grass and arrested him. He was charged with illegal camping; police confiscated the two tents. No warnings were given before arrest.

Activists moved to another location, an empty lot across I-35, behind the Conoco station where they shared a meal donated by Keep Austin Fed and other individuals. After about an hour the Police moved two cruisers into a neighboring lot and swept through the property, prompting activists to move yet again. They regrouped and marched to a third location, the parking lot of a Church, where protesters were able to sleep for the night.

Occupy Austin and Peaceful Streets members have gathered at the Travis County Jail waiting for those arrested to be released. Jeremy Crutz and Josh Penada have been released and the final one is expected momentarily.

Occupy Austin is outraged at the amount of taxpayer money wasted by the APD in pursuing peaceful, non-violent people. We object to Austin’s zero tolerance policy which criminalizes human beings simply for lacking a home, and will continue to fight for our First Amendment rights and for the human rights and dignity of our houseless allies here in Austin.

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The Ending Homelessness Working Group is made up of homeless, formerly homeless, and housed individuals. They have been organizing since January 2012 towards shelter for all and an end to ordinances targeting the homeless and the poor. The February 4th silent march against the ordinances also served as a response to the eviction of Occupy Austin’s encampment at City Hall where a number of homeless men and women had been living and organizing. The Working Group raised the demand for a women’s shelter, which was acted upon after the death of Valerie Godoy in Duncan Park, members of the working group have participated in the organizing of the shelter.

Occupy Austin is a standing protest against the unjust and harmful power of large corporations over the world’s economic and political systems and against threats to civil liberties and democracy at home and abroad. Our Occupation began on October 6, 2011.

 

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