Earlier this week on Valentine's Day while most of use were either out having a special dinner or enjoying the company of ourselves, Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir had her office "Occupied". It wasn't your traditional sit in. Members of GetEQUAL Texas were joined by members of Occupy Austin in requesting (and being denied) same sex marriage licenses from the Travis County Clerk's office. It was part of a nationwide action to bring attention to marriage inequality.
Things took a bit of an unexpected turn. Stephen Webster of Raw Story included the following interesting details in his report earlier this week.
DeBeauvoir knelt down in front of the group and explained that they were welcome to stay until closing, at which point they would be removed - or, she said, "we could just do this thing right now while the reporters are still here."
Eyeing nearby reporters, DeBeauvoir leaned a bit closer to the protesters and lowered her voice: "But what I'm suggesting is, why don't you do it now and get it on camera? I mean, I'm trying to have... For you to get the maximum message here. So, what I'm thinking is, maybe we need to do it now?"
The activists agreed, so the county clerk stepped out into the hallway and picked up a phone. On a call with deputies, she commented that "the occupy movement is here," and specifically asked that police come take the women out, but give them "the least charge possible."
Moments later, five deputies stepped in and cuffed the women, ushering them to police cars waiting outside, even as a purely symbolic unity ceremony was taking place in the parking lot.
"We wish the law was different, but until it is I'm bound by the laws of the state and will not break the law," DeBeauvoir told Raw Story. "One of these days, I hope that all couples have the same civil rights."
Last weekend's arrest of nearly 40 Occupy Austin participants who were peacefully demonstrating on the City Hall Plaza has raised a number of concerns. Among them is who was responsible for the decision to allocate dozens of Austin Police officers on an incredibly busy Halloween weekend, costing the city untold overtime pay to monitor and ultimately disrupt a peaceful protest.
It appears that most of the Austin City Council was left out of the loop on the crafting of new rules issued to the Occupiers last week in a memo ostensibly drafted by the city. While Austin does have a Council-Manager form of government which gives the authority to City Manager Marc Ott to direct these sorts of decisions, it is disconcerting that members of the elected body who's "front plaza" is being occupied were seemingly left out of the conversation. Since the arrests, representatives of the city as well as the demonstrators have met to agree upon more appropriate enforcement of city rules. In addition, those arrested on Class B Criminal Trespass charges will have their cases reviewed and reconsidered on a case by case basis.
Tonight, Austin's Public Safety Commission will hear from APD Chief of Staff David Carter who will hopefully give the public some answers about the processes and decisions that led up to last weekend's actions. While the Commission meeting begins at 4 PM, Carter is expected to be available for questions starting around 5:05 PM according to the Commission's posted agenda. The meeting is being held in the Boards & Commissions room, just to the right inside the front doors of City Hall. All those with concerns or questions are invited to attend.
Occupy Austin has been set up at Austin City Hall for eight days now, protesting the corporatism that drives our politics.
The protestors make up all of the 99%, making the scene at Austin City Hall very diverse. Professionals, college students, and retirees are just some of the groups that have come together to stand against the stranglehold that money has over our political process.
Protesters have set up a library, held general assembly meetings and maintained an amazing website. Today, protestors will attend a massive march on the banks.
On the first day of protests last Thursday, I went with UT filmmaker Mystie Pineda and asked people about the Occupy Wall Street movement. Here's the video: