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

Joseph Stiglitz, Bernie Sanders, new populism, democratic populism, wealth inequality, income inequality, Next System Project

It's time to begin the careful work of knitting together broad, pluralistic conceptions of what a transformed system might look like.

Trans-Pacific Partnership, TPP, corporate trade deals, whistleblowers, fast track, Trade Promotion Authority

Letter signed by more than 250 firms demands greater transparency and says "dangerously vague" language would criminalize whistleblowers.

rate rigging, banking fines

Five giant banks, including JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup, were fined roughly $5.7 billion, and four of them pleaded guilty to U.S. criminal charges over manipulation of foreign exchange rates.

worker-owned cooperatives, worker-owned businesses

New York City is home to the country’s largest worker-owned co-op, Co-operative Home Care Associates, which employs some 2,300 workers, mainly immigrant and minority women in the South Bronx.

The $5.3 trillion subsidy estimate for 2015 is greater than the total health spending of all the world’s governments.

Trans-Pacific Partnership, TPP, fast track authority, Trade Promotion Authority, Bernie Sanders, Investor-State Dispute Settlements, ISDS

Bernie's message of taking on the billionaire class, making four-year college free and breaking up the big banks is resonating with everyday folks – and if he breaks with the Democrats to run as an Independent, his support will surge.

Posted 6 days 21 hours ago
PossibL, solutions conference, Yes! Magazine

A gathering of people from around the world at the first ever event known as PossibL, happening later this month in San Francisco, seeks to shed light less on the crises we face and more on the solutions to those crises.

Posted 6 days 21 hours ago

If carried out as expected, this year's tax foreclosures in Detroit will comprise the largest number of foreclosures in any municipality in history – and they're not even being carried out by big heartless banks, but rather by local government.

Posted 6 days 20 hours ago
fracking ban, Denton fracking, anti-fracking legislation, Greg Abbott

Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill into law that prohibits cities and towns from banning an oil drilling practice known as hydraulic fracking, giving the state sole authority over oil and gas regulation.

Posted 2 days 21 hours ago

Britain’s election shows it's no longer a united kingdom, that Scottish independence is increasingly likely – and that the new Conservative government will only further fracture an already deeply unequal society.

Posted 3 days 21 hours ago
fracking ban, Denton fracking, anti-fracking legislation, Greg Abbott

Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill into law that prohibits cities and towns from banning an oil drilling practice known as hydraulic fracking, giving the state sole authority over oil and gas regulation.

This week Eleanor Goldfield visits activist artists in New York City

PossibL, solutions conference, Yes! Magazine

A gathering of people from around the world at the first ever event known as PossibL, happening later this month in San Francisco, seeks to shed light less on the crises we face and more on the solutions to those crises.

The tide of public resistance against a proposed free trade agreement between the U.S. and the European Union is rising in Germany, as opponents say the plan would harm democracy and rule of law.

Sign Up