A new city policy enacting a curfew at City Hall between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. and banning tents and sleeping bags from the grounds has forced Occupy Austin to change its strategy, protester Dave Cortez said. The movement now meets in front of City Hall every day from 6-10 p.m. in what Cortez said is a more spirited meeting.
“After the Feb. 3 eviction there was an outpour of phone calls and emails from people wanting to know what they could do to help,” Cortez said. “There have been about 100 people at the last few meetings and that is more than we were getting before.”
Cortez said protesters took pictures of the police forcing them off City Hall grounds on Feb. 3, put them on the Occupy Austin website and made them into posters to spark more attention from those who might not know about the eviction.
“We were met that night by two Capital Metro buses full of police wearing helmets and holding shields, batons and guns,” Cortez said. “We blew those pictures up so everyone could see. People don’t like to see the police like that.”
Occupy protesters have grievances with City Hall because of their disregard for public policy, Cortez said.
“City Hall is not a park so there cannot be a curfew,” he said. “We were run off the premises without a vote by City Council or the people or anything.”
Jason Alexander, executive assistant director for the deputy attorney general, said City Hall has cleaned up during the week that protesters have not been there 24 hours a day. He said there was an influx of protesters in the most recent days after the eviction but each day there seem to be fewer and fewer.
“I can definitely say we have not had any problems since they have left,” Alexander said. “From a business perspective things are going as usual.”
Alexander said City Hall is assessing the permanent damage left by the four month encampment to determine what needs repair and how much it will cost.
“We don’t know all of the official damage yet but I’m pretty sure the flower beds and vegetation have been trampled, the bathrooms have been vandalized and there are stains on the steps which may require re-stoning,” Alexander said.
Austin Police Department assistant chief Raul Munguia said there are no longer any APD officers related to Occupy Austin at City Hall, which will in turn save Austin taxpayer money.
“City Hall security and staff enforce the rules,” Munguia said. “If someone does not follow the rules, city staff can and will ask the violator to comply. If there is a refusal to follow the rules, city staff can issue a criminal trespass warning. Once the warning has been issued, the violator can be arrested by APD.”
Film production graduate student Britta Lundin said she had forgotten about Occupy Austin until they were evicted and is not surprised by the sudden increase in participation.
“I’m sure they are re-energized,” Lundin said. “The publicity has probably been great for them.”
Printed on, Tuesday February 14, 2012 as: Occupy protesters evicted, curfew imposed