Dave Cortez

Occupy Austin protesters attend a general assembly meeting at City Hall Monday evening. After the enactment of a new city policy, protesters must abide by a curfew, forcing occupy Austin to form a new strategy.

Photo Credit: Shannon Kintner | Daily Texan Staff

Occupy Austin and City Hall are reassessing tactics and regrouping after the eviction of the protest Feb. 3.

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

Holding the American flag, Robert Stephenson takes part in Occupy Austin’s third “March Against Banks” on National Bank Transfer Day Saturday afternoon. Nearly 100 demonstrators marched from City Hall to Wells Fargo at Congress Avenue and East Riverside Drive to protest commercial banks and to support those who closed their bank accounts.

Photo Credit: Danielle Villasana | Daily Texan Staff

[Updated at 10:06 p.m., caption edits]

Approximately 100 Occupy Austin protesters gathered at City Hall on Saturday morning and marched to the Wells Fargo branch at Congress Avenue and East Riverside Drive to participate in National Bank Transfer Day.

Dave Cortez, the head of the Occupy Austin bank action committee, said Saturday’s protests resulted in 11 customers closing their accounts and approximately $15,000 withdrawn from the international bank.

As the protesters marched to the Wells Fargo branch across the Congress Avenue Bridge, many chose to walk in the street without an official permit to do so. Cortez said the police told him this was an illegal action and then screened him for outstanding arrest warrants. For the march back to City Hall, police agreed to escort protesters across the bridge in one lane.

Despite the disobedience by some protesters on the bridge, Sgt. Lee Syga of the Austin Police Department said Saturday’s march occurred without any incident.

“It went great,” Syga said. “It was peaceful, and there was nothing really going on.”

The staff of the Wells Fargo branch was unable to comment on the protests.

Former Wells Fargo customer Cameron Field said the process of closing his account went smoothly, and he is now going to open an account with a credit union.

“[Wells Fargo] was very polite, and they knew why we were out there,” Field said. “Now, it feels good to not have my money tied to a bank that made risky investments and got bailed out.”

In an interview with the Daily Texan last week, senior finance lecturer Regina Hughes said the primary difference between credit unions and commercial banks is the ownership.

Hughes said commercial banks, such as Bank of America and Wells Fargo, are for-profit entities owned by shareholders. Credit unions are controlled by their members, who directly make policies for other members and are not necessarily looking to make huge profits. They also do not provide the same variety of services, such as types of investments, offered by major commercial banks. Commercial banks, she said, are corporations that invite people to become customers, but their goals can be different and separate from those customers.

Cortez said he is involved with Occupy Austin’s committee to provide informational tool kits for people who are interested in closing their bank accounts and switching to a local credit union.

“In Austin, we have coordinated the withdrawal of over $430,000 from the major banks,” Cortez said. “It shows that people have some power against the big banks and is a tangible morale booster for the [Occupy movement].”

Current Wells Fargo customer Andrea Street said she is seriously considering closing her account because of the way the major banks treat their customers.

“Wells Fargo is making their customers pay extra fees to cover for the fines the federal government is making them pay for their violations,” Street said. “We are out here to hit them in the pocket where it counts.”

Protester Leslie Perry said she closed her Wells Fargo account in 1994 to join a credit union and is excited to see more people doing so now.

“I am very anxious yet optimistic to see what’s going to come out of all this,” Perry said. “People are finally realizing our whole monetary system is set up to serve the rich.”