Occupy Houston Commentary On Felony Charges For Civil Disobedience
Occupy Houston and Occupy Austin protestors are facing felony charges for taking part in civil disobedience earlier this month outside the Port of Houston. The felony charges had at first been dismissed by a judge, but have now be reinstated by a Harris County grand jury empanelled by the Harris County District Attorney’s office.
There is little doubt in my mind that these charges are about scaring off further acts of protest in our county. This is an issue that should be of concern to politically involved people on all sides of the aisle. The rights of all are at risk when any group of people is singled out for excessive punishment by those in power.
These excessive charges should be recalled when anybody gets to thinking that incumbent Harris County DA Pat Lykos is somehow more moderate or reasonable than others who have held her office in recent years.
While we are all busy with the holidays, we cannot forget these Occupy patriots who are now facing serious jail time for charges that were at one point dismissed.
Now that we’ve hit national news, thanks to MSNBC, I believe it’s worth collating some pieces of reality together for anyone confused about the happenings of GULFPORT ACTION and #D12 here in the mighty H-Town.
The inspiration came from the first of recent port shutdowns in Oakland. In Houston, though less fierce, we were still interested in getting noticed. Interestingly, it may make for different news than we originally planned for (which is okay). For both Austin and Houston, on December 12th, Occupy Gulf Port day, arrestees were detained and jailed for “use of a criminal instrument” (according to legal record), something that didn’t get reported by Oakland or the other port occupations across the nation. The schedule for the day was set down like thus.
If you aren’t yet familiar with this “criminal instrument” in reference here, the tactic is called the “sleeping dragon.” Protestors on #D12 used this to stay chained (voluntarily) by PVC pipe, arm by arm, while laying down in the road. This way, they make it much harder to individually zip-tie and arrest in isolated fashion.
All things come to a close; in this case, the doors were literally closed. In the midst of the human mic loud at work, HPD officers block off the crowd from the people in the street and erect an inflatable red isolation room, as seen in this video. Interestingly, this was also the first example, at least in Houston, of the Police and Fire Dept working together to erect an inflatable tent (ah the irony). Why?
According to John Cannon, HPD Spokesman, it “was placed over the protesters to prevent sparks” while Houston Fire Dept. cut through the PVC links. Really? I feel like there’s more to it than that. This is a great tool for crowd control and privacy from the omnipresent electronic eye, determined to record every piece of the happenings of the day, bound to wind up on the internet for thousands to view and rally next to. It’s a shiesty method to block off news cameras–even the choppers in the sky had issues seeing in. I can’t help but remember Nov. 15th, the night #OWS got ousted from Liberty Square and the NYPD literally corralled the media crews to prevent them from seeing the whole scene. Hey, even a woman got punched that morning, after they already had a court order to come back into the park. I was listening to my police scanner app and tweeting until 3am CST.
Ultimately, the PVC pipe inconveniences the police–it takes more time and more effort on the cops end and, in the scope of HPD, I can’t say they’ve had the most patient track record for handling events considered “crimes” to maintain public safety. For the purposes of this post, HPD isn’t really the issue, yet digressing a moment might better educate you about our local police force. It’s disconcerting to say the least.
If you don’t know what I mean, go start googling statistics of HPD shootings or something, or the tasers they employ (link 1, link 2) and events of shooting unarmed people (I think the term is “trigger happy”). Or, you can go look at the forensics problems HPD has created issues regarding DNA testing, firearm ballistics, and more. You can also read the Wiki article, (which sums it the mess alright). As you probe further, take a look at the number of innocent people convicted of felony charges, life sentences, and such and you’ll get an idea of how many times HPD has aided in jumping the gun on justice and destroyed a few lives on the way.
I don’t mention that lightly. What 7 current occupants in limbo are facing is up to a 2 year sentence in prison (and even that may change) for committing a felony crime. It’s nothing to scoff about. Even if it takes a year to clear (and it may), it’s still going to be drawn out and waste precious time, energy, and money on something that is (clearly) a non-issue, at least, according to Judge Joan Campbell:
“Campbell ruled the protesters’ use of a so-called “sleeping dragon” or “arm tube” – a PVC pipe used to shackle their arms inside to keep police from handcuffing them – did not meet legal requirements of being a criminal instrument, Barnett said.” –via Chron.com
However, like the weather in Houston, politics is always around and constantly shifting. Since a week ago, the decision that HPD didn’t have a probable cause sat poorly in the minds of the District Attorney’s Office, whom six days ago decided that they would seek an indictment to really hit home this idea that they are interested in setting a precedent with our activists. Even in their proposed logic, I’d call it a stretch at a minimum.
So, Tuesday, thanks to the powers that be, our Austin and Houston occupants indeed got indicted. For real. Check this out. Seriously? What’s next? City of Houston taxpayer money, shouldn’t you be used to better educational system, or make our HPD happier (that’s right, I said it; They’ve had major funding cuts too, hence being part of the 99%). Okay, I kid. At least this way, their choppers that are patrolling homes with heat scanners are grounded.
In all seriousness, there’s one great thing about this–just one right now, in my eyes–despite the bail money used and the ceaseless efforts to get our friends out of jail, we’ve made national news and, this time, it’s a lot more intense than zombie flash mobs.