Undercover police admittedly infiltrated Occupy Austin, may have acted as provocateurs
By End the Lie
Court documents and interviews compiled by the Austin Statesman reveal a disturbing plot cooked up by the Austin Police Department to assign no less than three undercover police officers to not only infiltrate the Occupy Austin encampment but even go as to act as provocateurs.
Unfortunately, this is hardly surprising given that undercover police also infiltrated the offshoot of Occupy Wall Street which emerged in Los Angeles, California last year.
Considering the fact that multiple cities engaged in a coordinated crackdown on the protests, I would not be at all surprised to learn that Austin was employing similar tactics as those used in other cities like Los Angeles.
One of the most troubling revelations, however, is not that undercover officers “camped with other participants in the movement, marched in rallies and attended strategy meetings.”
It is much more concerning to know that police may have actually encouraged the use of so-called lockboxes or “sleeping dragons.” These are essentially a homemade device which makes it more difficult for police to break up protests by allowing “Occupy members to tie themselves together during a protest in Houston, according to interviews and court records.”
The devices essentially make the task of breaking up human chains more difficult and actually resulted in the Houston police filing felony charges against a whopping seven protesters related to an attempt to block a port entrance on December 12.
While police officials would confirm that undercover officers had infiltrated Occupy Austin, they would not comment on the role of the officers in the lockboxes.
However, the court proceedings appeared to make it very clear who was responsible for this practice: Austin Police Detective Shannon Dowell, known to Occupiers as “Butch.”
Detective Dowell and attorneys revealed in court that he actually purchased the PVC pipe required to fashion the devices along with other materials, using Occupy Austin funds, and then actually delivered the finished lockboxes to the group members.
I’m not sure how exactly that could be construed as anything other than blatant entrapment.
The protesters who were fooled into using the devices could face from two to ten years if convicted under what the Statement characterizes as “an obscure statute that prohibits using a device that is manufactured or adapted for the purpose of participating in a crime.”
The glaring issue is that it appears that it was actually the police that manufactured or adapted the device for the purposes of participating in a crime. The protesters were just gullible enough to be fooled by “Butch.”
Kit O’Connell, a supporter of Occupy Austin, said that the protesters actually uncovered the true identity of “Butch” after the Occupy Austin encampment was evicted.
The most damning evidence of the questionable tactics employed by police is contained in affidavits filed by Occupy Austin participants.
The affidavits point to Dowell as the individual responsible for pushing the use of the devices on the demonstrators. The documents also allege that the undercover officer would routinely pull activists aside “in order to express his frustration with debate and eagerness for more aggressive and provocative actions.”
This again is not all that surprising seeing as activists part of the Occupy Oakland protests also claimed to have evidence of undercover police infiltration and provocateur activity.
While police officials would confirm that they ordered officers to infiltrate Occupy Austin, they would not comment on if it was Dowell who actually first proposed the use of the lockboxes
The attorney for one of the seven charged in relation to the lockboxes, Ronnie Garza, has accused the police of possible misconduct and entrapment and Garza seeks to have the charge against him dropped entirely.
Garza is being represented by Greg Gladden of the National Lawyer’s Guild.
Judge Joan Campbell at first dismissed the case until prosecutors could obtain indictments from a grand jury, but she said that she will come to a decision next week as to whether to allow the case to move forward.
Hilariously, Dowell claimed that he could not produced the documents subpoenaed by the court – which were apparently emails sent about the operation from his work computer – because he supposedly deleted them and also lost a USB drive containing photos when it fell out of his pocket and into the gutter.
Judge Campbell expressed some frustration with Dowell according to the Statesman and Garza’s attorney went as far as to say, “I think he decided it was time the dog ate his homework.”
The judge has now reportedly threatened to dismiss the case unless the police produce the required the documents and reveal the name of the two other undercover officers who went by the names of “Dirk” and “Rick” at the next hearing on September 5.
In an attempt to justify the police’s actions, Austin Police Department Assistant Chief Sean Mannix said that the police had received reports from confidential informants who claimed that the activists might be planning to carry out illegal protests.
“We obviously had an interest in ensuring people didn’t step it up to criminal activity,” said Mannix. “There is obviously a vested public interest to make sure that we didn’t allow civil unrest, violent actions to occur.”
The glaring problem with this justification, of course, is that “illegal” protests don’t necessarily involve violent actions, civil unrest or criminal activity, unless one considers the exercise of free speech without a permit a criminal act.
Mannix stated that he doesn’t believe that any departmental policies or laws were violated by their efforts but he did say that the police’s infiltration is now the subject of a high-level internal review which is supposedly “absolutely looking into all aspects of what their undercover work was.”
Unfortunately, I’m not all too confident that this internal review will be independent and thus I’m not all too convinced that a fair investigation will occur. This is especially true when we see undercover officers providing somewhat laughable excuses for why they can’t produced subpoenaed documents.
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