Police Admit to Infiltrating Occupy Austin

Search form

Police Admit to Infiltrating Occupy Austin

Police Admit to Infiltrating Occupy Austin
Wed, 9/5/2012 - by Muriel Kane
This article originally appeared on The Raw Story

Photo: John Jack Anderson. Undercover officer Shannon G. Dowell at an Occupy Austin Gathering.

When the local offshoot of Occupy Wall Street began a five-month encampment in Austin, Texas last fall, the Austin police assigned at least three undercover officers to infiltrate the group and gather information on potentially illegal actions.

According to the Austin Statesman, court documents and interviews show that the infiltrators “camped with other participants in the movement, marched in rallies and attended strategy meetings.”

They may also have gone further, acting as provocateurs to encourage the use of lockboxes or “sleeping dragons” — lengths of PVC pipe into which protestors insert their arms to make it harder for police to remove them during a demonstration.

Seven protestors who used the devices while blocking a port entrance in Houston last December 12 have been charged with a felony and face jail terms of from two to ten years under what the Statesman calls “an obscure statute that prohibits using a device that is manufactured or adapted for the purpose of participating in a crime.”

The question of the lockboxes came up during a district court hearing in Harris County this week at which one of those seven, Ronnie Garza, sought to have the charge against him dropped. It was disclosed at the hearing that Austin Police Detective Shannon Dowell — known to Occupiers as “Butch” — had purchased the necessary pipe and other materials using funds supplied by Occupy Austin, constructed the devices himself, and provided them to demonstrators.

According to Occupy Austin supporter Kit OConnell, the occupiers figured out “Butch’s” true identity after their encampment was evicted last winter. Affadavits from Occupy Austin members have pointed to Dowell as the person who pushed for the use of the lockboxes and allege that he would regularly pull participants aside “in order to express his frustration with debate and eagerness for more aggressive and provocative actions.”

Garza’s attorney, Greg Gladden of the National Lawyer’s Guild, has accused the police of entrapment and possible misconduct. Judge Joan Campbell, who had initially dismissed the case until prosecutors obtained indictments from a grand jury, says she will decide next week whether to allow the proceeding to go forward.

At the hearing, Dowell told the judge that he had could not produce subpoenaed documents because emails he had sent about the operation from his work computer had been deleted and he had lost a thumb drive containing photos when it dropped out of his pocket and fell in the gutter.

The Statesman reports that Judge Campbell expressed frustration with Dowell, while Garza’s attorney remarked, “I think he decided it was time the dog ate his homework.”

Judge Campbell has threatened to dismiss the case unless the required documents and the real names of the two other undercover officers, “Dirk” and “Rick,” are presented at the next hearing on September 5.

Police officials declined to comment on the question of it was Dowell who first proposed using the lockboxes, but they did confirm that their department had ordered the infiltration.

Austin Police Chief Sean Mannix said that his department had begun receiving reports from confidential informants that the occupiers might be planning illegal protests. “We obviously had an interest in ensuring people didn’t step it up to criminal activity,” he said. “There is obviously a vested public interest to make sure that we didn’t allow civil unrest, violent actions to occur.”

Mannix does not believe any laws or departmental policies were violated, but he confirmed that the infiltration effort is the subject of a high-level internal review which is “absolutely looking into all aspects of what their undercover work was.”

Article Tabs

U.S. negotiators are working to permanently block a landmark regulatory proposal in the E.U. aimed at addressing climate change – and instead to force European countries to import the world's dirtiest oil.

This summer, the CIA's private Amazon Web Services cloud—shielded from the public behind a wall of national security—becomes operational.

The study released Monday by Human Rights Watch raises questions about the criminal justice system's ability to respect civil rights and due process since 9/11.

Extensive research and reports commissioned by the fracking industry are treated as seminal, informative works within the U.K. government – but to date, no one outside industry vouches for its safety.

“It doesn’t make sense that I work hard, help the restaurant make money and yet I can’t eat there or support my family on just one job. This is not the America that I believe in."

In the 80s and 90s they called them "IMF Riots" – but what the biggest international investment organizations and consultants now see happening looks a whole lot bigger.

Posted 5 days 8 hours ago

Part 3: Chris Hedges interviewed Harvard professor and MayDay SuperPAC founder Lawrence Lessig about his plans to break the hold of big money on American elections.

Posted 5 days 8 hours ago

Patient details were shared with organizations including private health insurance companies, many based in the United States.

Posted 5 days 8 hours ago

Investors led by BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, and PIMCO, the world’s largest bond-fund manager, have sued some of the world’s largest banks for breach of fiduciary duty.

Posted 6 days 7 hours ago

The aggressive foreclosures and water shut-offs are a deliberate scheme to shock the population, drive long-time residents out of the city center, seize property and gentrify downtown Detroit and the waterfront.

Posted 5 days 8 hours ago

Two settlements between Bank of America and state and federal regulators over actions during the financial crisis challenge conventional assumptions about Republicans, Democrats and Wall Street.

Federal Reserve: 'We Got Hacked by Anonymous'

The Federal Reserve released a statement Tuesday that members of Anonymous hacked its system on Superbowl Sunday to obtain sensitive information from more than 4,000 bank executives.

The magnitude 5.7 earthquake near Prague, Okla., in 2011 may also be the largest ever linked to wastewater injection, which is drastically increasing due to the recent boom in U.S. energy production.

The Fed's stimulus policies, expressed in the form of Quantitative Easing, amount to one of the most expensive forms of corporate welfare in history.

More and more people are asking: how do we opt out of Wall Street now? Local and alternative currencies, for a start.

Sign Up