Occupy Austin

Political analysis company Stratfor has recently come under fire for allegedly being part of a plan to shut down local activist groups Occupy Austin and Deep Green Resistance Austin.

An unknown hacker group infiltrated Stratfor’s systems in December and obtained a large amount of confidential information, such as credit card numbers and company emails, and eliminated data on four Stratfor servers. Alleged emails between Stratfor employees and the Texas Department of Public Safety have caused debate regarding validity of the emails and whether online spying is taking place. In the messages, DPS officers instructed Stratfor to keep a close eye on Occupy Austin and Deep Green Resistance Austin.

In a statement released earlier this month, Stratfor CEO George Friedman said he did not know who the hackers were — many have claimed them to be members of the Internet activist group Anonymous – but that they allegedly hacked to expose corporate corruption.

Stratfor provides worldwide geopolitical analysis to subscribers around the world using traditional news outlets, open source monitoring of information and surveys from human sources.

Friedman said he expected the hackers to be disappointed with what they found.

“Of course we have relationships with people in the U.S. and other governments and obviously we know people in corporations, and that will be discovered in the emails,” Friedman said. “But that’s our job. We are what we said we were — an organization that generates its revenues through geopolitical analysis.”

In the emails, DPS officials sent Stratfor information on both activists movements and asked the company to gain understanding on how both groups operate. Stratfor employees reportedly suspected an alliance between Occupy Austin and Deep Green Resistance and thought it could be a threat.

DPS spokesman Tom Vinger said DPS cannot verify the authenticity of the information contained in the emails.

Occupy Austin member Kit O’Connell said the Stratfor emails reaffirmed the group’s concern about infiltrators within Occupy Austin. O’Connell said the dates on the emails coincided with the arrests of many Occupy Austin members the night of Halloween for civil disobedience. On Halloween, one person left the group and accused specific members of breaking the law, O’Connell said.

O’Connell said although Occupy Austin group members have suspected other members of being infiltrators, there is no definite way to tell and no direct accusations have been made.

“Our movement is based around transparency and we do almost everything out in the open, although we are concerned of people spying,” O’Connell said. “It’s obvious some people in intelligence don’t know what to make of us and are afraid of us.”

He also said while many of Occupy Austin’s members are a part of Deep Green Resistance Austin, there is no formal alliance between the groups. There has been some talk about occupying the Stratfor building but nothing is set in stone, O’Connell said.

Stratfor officials have said they cannot comment on the emails at the moment but that measures are being taken to make sure something like this does not happen again.

Pre-med junior Joe Gailey stands in the South Mall on Wednesday afternoon as part of Occupy Austin’s campus walk. The walkout was a preview of Thursday’s protest that will take place at City Hall.

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan Staff

A group of approximately 40 students met at South Mall on Wednesday at noon and held signs advertising Occupy Austin while chanting slogans like “money for jobs and education, not for wars and occupation.”

Occupy Austin student-outreach coordinator Jonathan Cronin said both social media and traditional tactics played a role in advertising Wednesday’s on-campus demonstration, called a walkout, in which student participants were encouraged to leave class in order to promote the cause. Inspired by the ongoing Occupy Wall Street protests that began in New York City, activists have been organizing and preparing for the Occupy Austin protest, set to begin at 10 a.m. Thursday at Austin City Hall.

The Occupy Austin protests are based on the same message of criticizing the American financial industry through tactics similar to those being used in New York City and will continue until no longer necessary, according to the website.

Finance lecturer David Miller attended the walkout and spoke with students about how to refine their message and participate in a successful protest.

“The students at UT should use their passion and intelligence to put forth positive and creative proposals,” Miller said. “The key is to find a solution to all of these problems you are talking about instead of just listing all of them.”

Geography junior Landre Wilson said he learned about the walkout while in class and learned of the Occupy Wall Street protests from the website Reddit. Wilson said he plans to attend the Occupy Austin protest.

Kirsten Bokenkamp, Communications coordinator for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, said her organization hopes to educate student protesters on their rights and responsibilities while they protest Thursday at City Hall.

“We are recommending that people document their interactions with city officials, make a record of who they spoke with and what they were told, keep copies of all permits and relevant documents,” Bokenkamp said. “We are reminding people that they are free to take photographs or videos of groups, including the police.”

Cronin sent out a Twitter announcement Sunday regarding the walkout, in addition to announcing it at a Tuesday night general assembly meeting.

The logistics and goals of the demonstration have been the focus of Occupy Austin’s general assembly meetings, which began last Saturday evening and extended through Wednesday evening.

David Ring, the representative for Occupy Austin’s local action committee, said the goal of the general assemblies is to construct a platform that reflects the grievances of people in Austin as well as support the Occupy Wall Street protests. The general assembly meetings use a consensus-based process in which the audience participates by approving or rejecting the presented proposals, asking questions and reminding the speaker to speed up their proposal. Tuesday’s general assembly meeting dealt with many issues such as organizing the supply of first aid, preparing for possible arrests during the protest, organizing transportation around the city for protesters and organizing educational presentations for people to learn about the movement.

“The process is tedious, but we’re trying to figure out why we’re all here,” Ring said. “We’re here to make a difference and to get this protest off the ground.” 

Printed on October 6, 2011 as: National protests spread to campus