Interviews, Articles, Videos and Images from the upcoming Trial of the Gulf Port 7.
1 year later and we are still unclear as to what exactly happened out there. Six of us have been in and out of court for a year, while Eric Marquez has been in jail. We’ve gotten the names of 3 undercover officers, and 277 pages worth of emails, and texts from the Austin Police Department but the view of what really happened out there that day is restricted. Like the tent that was used to hide the arrests, the story APD sells seems to hide how they handled #D12 and the trial of the Gulf Port 7.
On December 12th 2011 in Houston over one hundred Occupiers from around Texas joined in solidarity with our Brothers and Sisters on the West Coast to show support for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union in their labor struggle. Occupy Oakland shut down their port and similar port shutdown and solidarity actions around the nation echoed. In Houston, a port shutdown was impossible due to the size of the port. A solidarity action was formed and 20 were arrested for blocking the roadway to the main office of the Houston Port. Of the twenty, 7 were charged with felonies for the lock-boxes that were utilized in their roadway blockade. We found out months later through an anonymous tip-off that it was in fact Austin Police officers who had actually designed and built the lock-boxes for use at the Port.
This finding led to the search for and eventual subpoena of Detective Shannon Dowell, who then appeared in court on August 29th 2012 for a pretrial hearing. A little late to the party, Dowell explained to the judge that the case which was scheduled to go to trial in two weeks had a few new developments. He explained that he worked in an undercover capacity along with 2 other undercovers to infiltrate the group in Austin and they were the individuals responsible for building the devices. Dowell further explained his chain of command and that it went as far up as the Chief of Police. Dowell then handed the judge 1 page of notes and a story. His story was that he lost his thumb drive in the gutter on the way to court so the page of notes was all he had.
The judge, shocked to learn about the officers, and shocked to see that so little was brought in response to the subpoena then decided that all communication about Occupy Austin and the Port action be turned over in addition to the names of the other undercover officers. The Austin attorneys then moved to keep the information requested confidential, but the Judge did not grant that. Several weeks later the information was brought to the court for private inspection. The Austin attorneys then asked that the information and the names not be disclosed but prosecution decided to hand over the names and emails so that a trial could happen. Currently the trial is set to take place on Feb.. 18th 2013.
As a general overview the APD Disclosure Packet is 277 pages long. Within are events that look to begin as early as September 29th 2011 and extend to February 15th 2012. There are 43 Police Officers of various rank and department exchanging email.
1 Assistant Chief of Police, 1 Director of DPS, 1 Captain of DPS, 5 Commanders, 6 Lieutenants, 9 Sergeants, 5 Detectives, and 3 Senior Police Officers amongst other ranks can be found in the emails.
Departments and agencies include: the Austin Police Department, the Austin Regional Intelligence Center, the Organized Crime Division, the Human Trafficking Unit, the Strategic Intelligence Unit, the Narcotics Unit, the Department of Public Safety, the Texas Fusion Center, the Houston Police Department, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, the US Coast Guard, The Port Authority, the Houston Fire Department, Customs and Border Patrol, the Houston Mayor’s Office of Public Safety & Homeland Security and the Department of Homeland Security.
The average salary for the officers in this packet is just over 100 thousand dollars, $100,689. This quote from Thomas Jefferson is repeated throughout: “The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.” This comes from the “signature” which is at the end of each email from LT Gerardo Gonzalez to the undercover officers.
Several Undercover Officers with DPS are mentioned but not named and 6 Undercover Officers from APD are mentioned, 3 who’s identities are revealed as Detectives Shannon Dowell, Ricardo Reza and Deek Moore.
APD top ‘brass” knowledgeable of the Undercover Officers infiltrating Occupy Austin and the Port Solidarity Action are as follows.
Top ranking are Assistant Chief of Police Brian Manley, followed by 5 Commanders, Donald Baker, Chris McIlvain, Troy Gay, Jason Dusterhoft, and Stephen Deaton. Following behind them are a fleet of Lieutenants, and Sergeants, principle amongst them being Lieutenant Mark Spangler who runs most of the day to day operations at the Austin Regional Intelligence Center (ARIC) and apparently the day to day operations when it came to Occupy Austin.
Working closely with Spangler were Lieutenant Gerardo Gonzalez from the Organized Crime and Human Trafficking divisions, and Sergeants, Tom Sweeney, James Boujemaa and Keith Suitt from APD. Rounding out this level of command are Captain Jaeson Jones and Lie tenant Jairo Saenz from DPS and The Texas Fusion Center (TxDPS).
Beneath them were the 3 primary undercover officers and a few supporting Detectives and Senior Police Officers who play an important data gathering and coordination role. The most active lower officer is a man named Calvin DeGraffenreid who’s job, it seems to be, is to monitor the online communications of Occupiers and report back to fusion with intel. We see 2 fusion Situational Awareness Report (SAR) Updates penned by DeGraffenreid and a slew of emails.
The core group of officers, about 15, utilize the facilities of Austin Regional Intelligence Center to hold meetings, gather data and coordinate. We see 2 planning meetings held at the “ARIC” leading up to the Port Action. Which brings us to our next section, coordination.
In regards to coordination between Austin and Houston, what we know is that Austin contacts Houston exactly 4 times in this packet. The emails come from LT Mark Spangler with APD and the Austin Regional Intelligence Center to the LT of Police in Houston, Robert Montalvo. But, something to note, Spangler only speaks with Montalvo once, briefly, in the first email on Dec 9th. The other 3 emails are only forwarded information. In that first email, Spangler says that APD has been watching Occupy Austin and knew the group planned to come to the Port and bring lock-boxes. Then he says he will forward him more info once he gets back to the office.
About 10 minutes later Spangler sends over 2 more emails. One forwards a calendar of events from Occupy Austin in December but the Port is not mentioned at all. Not once. An “Occupy your Instrument” Jam Session is listed as are some working group meetings but NO Port. The third email forwards intel that Dallas is also coming to the Port, this email contains 1 flier and 10 missing attachments. So by the end of the third email, with exception to the lock-boxes, Spangler has let Montalvo know exactly what every occupier in Houston, Dallas and Austin already knew. Following the third email is a yawning chasm of silence.
According to the packet we received, they don’t speak to each other for another 42hrs. Maybe they were mad at each other, I don’t know. If you ask an Occupier it was the day of our International Human Rights Day March and Rally, but for APD and HPD, nothing. There is nothing in this packet from Dec. 10th between Austin and Houston. No emails, No texts, nothing. Which just seems odd because over the course of 7 days, Dec. 3rd to Dec. 9th, APD finds out about the Port Action, infiltrates a planning meeting, meets at the Fusion Center, comes up with the schematics for designing the lock-boxes, buys the material to make the lock-boxes, infiltrates another planning meeting, meets at the Fusion Center again, and then actually makes the lock-boxes. Then finally, on the night of Dec. 9th contacts Houston about a potential crime involving 3 cities, a major port, Sleeping Dragons… And then it looks like they just meditate on. Maybe they were thinking about how much money they were making, maybe they were thinking about International Human Rights Day, I don’t know. All I know is the next time we see Austin contact Houston, 42hrs later, it’s Dec. 11th at 2:30PM.
This forwarded email is the only other moment of coordination we have between Austin and Houston before the Action on the Dec. 12th. Again the message is not from Spangler but he forwards some intel to Montalvo. It says that the lock-boxes were “dropped off” and.. “Again, officers should be equipped with 1/4 wrench and some pliers for easy removal of the devices.” And again I wonder when they said it the first time? Either way, this is the only time and this 1 sentence is the only sentence out of this entire 277 page packet that informs officers in Houston about how to safely address the challenges APD has created by making the lock-boxes. Got Safety?
We also have 1 email back from Houston, the day after the action at the Port. On Dec. 13th Montalvo sends Spangler an arrest list. They essentially threw the world at us for this action at the Port, yet we are handed a demure 4 emails amounting to 1 sentence of preparation. The organizer in me just doesn’t buy it, but of course I don’t work for ARIC… Got Fusion?
All the while, in the background, 1 Assistant Chief of Police, 1 Captain of DPS, 5 Commanders, 6 Lieutenants, 9 Sergeants, 5 Detectives, and 3 Senior Police Officers and likely many more are all aware of undercover officers inside of Occupy Austin. From what I’ve learned APD and HPD have either a very unique way of coordinating or they have a very unique way of responding to a courts’ request for information.
Which brings us to the press conferences. APD produced 2 press conferences in relation to the discoveries of the undercover officers, 1 on August 31st and one on Sept 5th. To quote Assistant Chief Sean Mannix:
“I can confirm Austin Police Department had plain-clothed police officers as well as uniformed officers assigned to work the Occupy Austin events of last year and early this year. It was determined plain clothes officers blending with the surroundings was necessary for the safety of the participants and the community as a whole. The primary mission of these officers was to protect the free speech activities of those engaged in lawful protest as well as initiating police response and action with regards to criminal activity.”
Moving to the 5th, Assistant Chief David Carter took a shot at explaining things as well. This time with a little less certainty than Mannix.
“What we believe at this time is that the officers truly acted in good faith and (in) what they believe was their public duty. However, it is not clear what the plan was and if appropriate controls were followed. I’m not saying there wasn’t a plan, I’m saying we didn’t know about it at this level. Normally, such actions are vetted by supervisors to ensure any undercover assignments, number one, pass legal muster and number two, address safety concerns.”
It was also stated at this conference that APD would be conducting an internal revue, the results of which will be available after the trial. So really, they seem to be saying they just don’t know what happened or at least not “at their level.” Yet, Assistant Chief Manley knew the undercovers were infiltrating a planning meeting, and knew it was because they were going to be in another police departments jurisdiction, he’s at their level. Additionally, 3 Commanders were asked permission to provide schematics. That’s pretty close to their level. So why don’t they know what happened? Do the police routinely just not talk to each other? Is APD kinda like elementary school where the Chiefs get mad and swear to never speak with each other? Does ARIC actually stand for Austin’s Really Incompetent Cops? I don’t think so, but I also don’t appreciate being micturated upon and being told its raining. The story doesn’t add up, it’s obvious to see but that’s what they are selling. We should expect more.
I’d like to expand a little about the Fusion Center and how this investigation was conducted.
A little background about “Fusion.” After 9/11 a decision was passed down to create greater information sharing capacity between intelligence and policing agencies. This was the birth of the “fusion center” in the United States, to date there are 70 fusion centers around the nation; they are high price and high tech. The centers were created with funding from DHS and in larger cities the management of the centers are left to the top level executives of the local police force. In our case Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo would be highest in command, and Lieutenant Mark Spangler runs the day to day operations. They are set up to allow regional information sharing across agencies and departments.
So then why were undercover detectives collecting intel and sending it back to ARIC director Spangler from Day 1 of Occupy Austin? Was our peaceful protest a crime? Should we expect that ARIC will continue to monitor our meetings and online communications and build dossiers on anyone who wants to talk about helping others? The communications mention writing “Preservation Letters to Facebook for subscriber info” on some of the Occupiers. The emails also include notes from Occupy UT, plans for the MLK march, committee notes from the Indigenous People’s Day March and the undercovers even came to the Decentralized Dance Party which was not an Occupy event. Where does it end?
For this article it begins with ARIC but will end about Eric.
Eric Marquez, one of the Gulf Port 7 is still in jail to this day from his arrest out at the Port.
Eric is a 24 year old Iraq War Veteran who suffers from PTSD, he came from Dallas for the protest. Eric’s bail was originally complicated by a previous charge he had picked up shortly after he returned from Iraq. First he had no bond option and then several months later was eligible for a 50K dollar bond. A campaign to bail Eric out began and eventually by late September of 2012 we had the funds to get him out. We posted bail and Eric was almost processed out of jail, he has told me that he was changed out in his civilian clothes and near the door when the ran his record and “found something else.” At the absolute last minute Eric was reprocessed into jail and then extradited to Dallas County on a baseless charge which the District Attorney in Dallas filed just within the statute of limitations. A new alleged offense from before the Port still hangs over Marquez as the District Attorney in Dallas decides how it will move forward. The person who originally made the report feels differently now and wants nothing to do with the charges, but the D.A. may still subpoena them. Eric waits to see how this latest round of legal trickery will affect him. Unfortunately, while he has been waiting in Dallas he has been found guilty of probation violations from the distant past. The judge even said Eric was lucky that the prosecution had taken it easy on him and if it was up to him he would have increased the sentence, referring to Occupy as “weirdos.” What we know is that Eric will have to suffer through jail longer now, likely he will be eligible for probation soon but the political nature his incarceration leaves many things uncertain.
Lastly, if you can please write to Eric. We are going to set up a donation system for his commissary, but if you can write to him please do. He put his neck out thinking, like the rest of us, that the charges were not going to be as severe. He took a risk knowing his difficult past to show solidarity with Occupy and he has paid far too much for that. Here is his address:
John Middleton Unit
13055 F.M. 3522
Abilene, TX 79601
#1827217 needs to be written on the outside of the envelope as well.
Here are some important interviews, articles and videos for context:
Video Playlist & Radio Interviews: