Protesters arrested at Occupy Houston, Austin
By Mary Tuma
While relations between the Austin Police Department and Occupy Austin protestors remained largely amicable since the occupation began last week, the relationship may be changing as result of recent arrests.
On Thursday morning, four protestors part of the Occupy Austin movement were arrested after refusing to clear City Hall Plaza while cleaning crews wiped away messages written in chalk on the ground. Those four were taken to jail on charges of misdemeanor criminal trespassing, reports Austin NBC affiliate KXAN.
A police official is quoted as saying law enforcement “greatly appreciate” those who are exercising their right to protest but that the city needed to come through and clean. There were no ulterior motives at play, Sgt. Scott Perry said. Some protestors weren’t so sure, though, issuing a statement that argued the arrests were an intimidation strategy.
“This was a deliberate attempt at removing Occupy Austin from Freedom Plaza,” said organizers in an online statement, according to CBS affiliate KVUE. “Law enforcement nation-wide is acting in a unified manner,” protesters said. “We will not be stopped. We are the 99 percent!”
Eric Wincott of Austin Cop Watch told KXAN, “By arresting them for being on city property, even if it is City Hall, it’s city property. They are violating their right to be there — in protest, under their First Amendment right, which should be protected, regardless if they are power washing the front steps.”
Eight protesters with the Occupy Houston movement were also arrested and charged with criminal trespassing on Wednesday. Angered by rising unemployment and job scarcity, roughly 150 demonstrators staged a sit-in at the Mickey Leland Federal Building in downtown Houston, the Houston Chronicle reports. The building was significant because it houses the offices of U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, both of whom voted against reviewing the national jobs plan.
“Authorities ordered the protestors to leave the building and called in reinforcements, drawing at least 50 officers and members of the Houston Police Department’s mounted horse patrol,” the Chronicle reported. “Police tried to move the protesters behind a series of steel barricades they had set up on the perimeter of the federal building, at 1919 Smith.”
The Houston and Austin protests, held in solidarity with New York City-based Occupy Wall Street protests spawning the nation, plan to extend until Dec. 6. More than 700 arrests have been made in New York, where acts of police brutality have been reported and captured on video.
Occupy Wall Street protests spread to Houston
Students, Houstonians gather to rally peacefully against ‘1 percent’
By Brian Jensen
The 99-percenter movement reached Houston this Thursday in the form of Occupy Houston — a grassroots movement which is “dedicated to ending the corporate corruption of democracy,” according to occupyhouston.org.
The protest began with a meet and greet in Market Square Park and continued with a march to JPMorgan Chase Tower before reaching its final destination at City Hall. All protestors were then given a chance to address the crowd, which repeated the message in order to amplify the volume without a permit.
Estimates of Thursday’s attendance ranged from 200 to 400 protestors, with many carrying signs displaying slogans ranging from “Reinstate Glass Steagall” and “Burn Your Credit Cards” to “I will believe corporations are people when Texas executes one” and “Bail Out Students, Not Banksters.”
UH was represented by members of many student groups including the International Socialist Organization, People Against Corporate Tax Evasion, Fair Labor Action Committee and Students for a Democratic Society. Other activist groups present included Houston Freethinkers, Houston Peace News and Infowars.com.
The protest was also heavily attended by the local media, including Fox, NBC, CultureMap, Houston Chronicle, WB and a helicopter from ABC 13.
When asked what the message of the occupation movement was, a spokesperson said it was “catalyzed around our frustration with corporate excess” as well as bailouts and lack of accountability among corporate CEOs, who she said “have swindled billions of Americans’ dollars and ruined their lives.”
She also encouraged all UH students who want to participate to join the discussion at occupyhouston.org.
Friday’s continued occupation brought local politicians Phillip Andrews and KP George, who were running on a grassroots platform that refuses special interest contributions.
Andrews, who is running for US Representative for House District 7, said “the day you start taking money from special interests, you stop serving the people.”
There have been no problems between the protestors and the police as of Friday according to one of the 10 Houston police officers monitoring Friday’s occupation. One officer went so far as to raise his arms in solidarity, which was loudly cheered by the protestors, as they marched to the JPMorgan Chase Tower.
Despite the recent bouts of rain, Occupy Houston is still active and holding general assemblies in which anyone is free to be heard.
Though numbers are down from the initial protest on Thursday, there are no plans to end the protest until demands are met.
Occupy Houston starts national protest trend
The Occupy Wall Street protests are gaining steam — and they’re spreading. Houston, Dallas and Austin are all hosting protests on Thursday, and nearly every major US city is as well.
This is exactly how change happens. Libya, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have all started major government reforms because their citizens took to the streets and told the government to change or else.
However, the Occupy Wall Street protests aren’t getting the same attention by the media that was given to similar movements in the Middle East this spring.
Whether that’s because the US population is jaded or the media simply doesn’t care is another question.
What’s clear is, no thanks to anyone but the supporters, the message is spreading.
According to the Occupy Houston website, the protest is starting in the morning but anyone can show up, on time or not.
“If you want to join us in the afternoon then please head directly to Hermann Square Park. Come join us and stand in peaceful solidarity with our brothers and sisters occupying Wall Street and the rest of the nation,” Occupy Houston says on the website. “Together we can END CORPORATE CORRUPTION OF DEMOCRACY!”
UH students can assist in spreading the message by participating in Houston’s version of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Occupy Houston is an autonomous arm of the Occupy movement.
That means it’s created by Houstonians for Houston’s benefit; the protests are put together from a Houston perspective; and the protest leaders are Houston-bred.
UH students who are concerned about the direction of our nation should make an effort to come out for the protest Thursday.
It will be a chance to let the Houston business community hear their dissatisfaction with the status quo, and it will be an opportunity for them to show solidarity with the protesters in other US cities.
We are the future, and this movement is a chance for our voices be heard.