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Police admit to infiltrating Occupy Austin, may have acted as provocateurs

HOUSTON (KTRK) --

When Occupy protesters chained themselves together with PVC pipes outside the Port of Houston in December, they might have expected to get arrested and perhaps even charged with misdemeanors for disturbing the peace, but they did not imagine getting felony charges and attorney Greg Gladden says they did, and the resulting charges are wrong.

"There is no probable cause to be charging these people with felonies for this free speech demonstrations," Gladden said.
[...]
"The police officers went and bought the material, manufactured what they're calling "sleeping dragons," also known as lockboxes."

"Entrapment is one term," Gladden said. "Police misconduct might be another term."

Gladden represents Ronnie Garza, one of the protestors arrested that day and charged with an obscure law -- unlawful use of a criminal instrument. The law makes it a felony for someone to manufacture something for the sole purpose of committing a crime. The instruments in this case were "lockboxes" made of large PVC pipes and other materials.

Austin Statesman:

Soon after Occupy Austin protesters began their months-long demonstration at City Hall last fall, Austin police officials assigned at least three undercover officers to infiltrate the group to gather intelligence on any plans that might break the law.

The officers camped with other participants in the movement, marched in rallies and attended strategy meetings with Occupy Austin members.

The officers also may have crossed a fine line in undercover police work: They helped plan and manufacture devices - often called "lockboxes" - that allowed Occupy members to tie themselves together during a protest in Houston, according to interviews and court records. The use of the devices, which makes it harder for police to break up human chains, resulted in Houston police filing felony charges against seven protesters who had attempted to block a port entrance in Houston on Dec. 12. include behind-the-scenes details of the lengths the Police Department went to in its efforts to monitor and control the Occupy Austin movement, which maintained a presence at City Hall for nearly five months. According to court documents, police brass up to and including Chief Art Acevedo approved the infiltration operation.

Austin Chronicle asks:
Did an undercover Austin Police detective induce members of Occupy Austin to commit felony obstruction of a roadway during a demonstration in Houston in December 2011? Or, did he – and two colleagues – intervene in protester plans in order to keep them, and police and firefighters responding to the Houston protest, safe?

Harris County District Judge Joan Campbell decide next week whether the case will go forward. She will decide if the activists were induced into using lockboxes – which are not illegal to construct or to own, but are illegal when intended for use in a crime – the distinction that allowed the state to bump the misdemeanor obstruction charge into a felony offense for Garza and his fellow Occupiers. The testimony so far indicates this is so.

Austin Police Chief Sean Mannix said he does not believe any laws or departmental policies were violated, but he confirmed that the infiltration effort is the subject of a high-level internal review which is “absolutely looking into all aspects of what their undercover work was.”

I'm wishing best of luck to the occupiers. It is a travesty of justice in a democracy that voicing free speech can get you framed.  

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Comment Preferences

  •  'Sole Purpose' (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    newpioneer, DRo, distraught, Lujane, RWood

    Occupiers must start building lockboxes for use in safety demonstrations, for educational purposes, and keep them on hand for possible spontaneous educational demonstrations.
    Label them 'For Educational Purposes'.

  •  This may not be the first time either (7+ / 0-)

    In Cleveland, five men (members of Occupy) were apprehended by the FBI around May 1st, and another three were arrested on terrorism charges in Chicago.  

    Seems like the FBI is revisiting its old policy of targeting every leftist organization and engaging in actions to discredit them all.

    It makes me very sad.    

    •  . (7+ / 0-)
      I reached out to Don Cook, the Green candidate for the 22nd Congressional District and an activist in police misconduct issues, who provided the following response.
      There have been a number of arrest of "terrorists" in this country since 9-11, and it is disturbing to me that most of them have involved operations where undercover officers with one law enforcement or anti-terrorist agency or department or another have proposed the illegal operation, recruited the "terrorist," and supplied all the necessary materials.  One wonders how strongly encouraged those "terrorists" were, and meditates upon the distinction between good police work and framing the innocent in these cases.  
      From Brains And Eggs on this subject.

      Be the change you want to see in the world. -Gandhi

      by DRo on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 01:42:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is standard operating procedure... (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DRo, Publius2008, SYWTSAR, Lujane, Sandino

    ...in our new normal (surveillance state)...from the WaPo, in April...

    Documents provide rare insight into FBI’s terrorism stings
    Peter Finn
    Washington Post
    April 13, 2012

    …There have been 138 terrorism or national security cases involving informants since 2001, and 51 of those have come over the past three years, according to the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School in New York. The center said the government secured convictions in 91 percent of those cases.

    Law enforcement officials say stings are a vital tactic for heading off terrorism. But civil rights activists and others say the FBI has been identifying individuals with radical views who, despite brash talk, might have little ability to launch attacks without the government’s help.

    “It almost seems like the government is creating a theatrical event that produces more fear in the community,” said Michael German, a senior policy counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union and a former FBI agent who worked undercover.

    Yet in these terrorism stings, every attempted defense that has alleged entrapment by the government has failed, according to Fordham’s Center on National Security. The FBI said that record speaks volumes and rejected any suggestion that it has invented terrorist plots. “They present the idea,” FBI spokesman Kathleen Wright said of the targets of investigations. “It is not us coming up with these ideas…”

    "I always thought if you worked hard enough and tried hard enough, things would work out. I was wrong." --Katharine Graham

    by bobswern on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 02:00:53 PM PDT

  •  Seattle anarchists (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DRo, Lujane, Another Grizzle, Sandino

    When the World Trade conference was in Seattle years ago there were some very high profile anarchist incidents. The one that still burns me up is the masked man, dressed all in black, who broke some windows. He was surrounded by police and gently handcuffed then gently led away all by himself. The rest of the protestors? Not so much. They were tackled, tased, sprayed, kicked, beat, and roughly stuffed into wagons together.

    So who was it that started the whole thing? AFAIK he was never identified. But I also seem to recall his shoes looked very much like official police shoes.

    www.dailykos.com is America's Blog of Record

    by WI Deadhead on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 02:58:45 PM PDT

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