Police in Houston on Tuesday night swarmed a small group of “Occupy” protesters and arrested them for possessing a tarp in a public park, according to area media.
In all, a total of 27 police officers responded to the scene in 19 squad cars, according to the protesters. Police had confronted the group around 11 p.m. about a tarp they were using to protect their equipment from the elements. It was not being used as a makeshift structure.
After about 20 minutes of negotiating, police decided to begin arresting the protesters, who refused to remove their tarp. Six individuals were peacefully arrested, and police confiscated the group’s equipment, along with the tarp. Another three were also detained for “jaywalking” and interfering with police, but later released. Three of the arrestees were released the following morning, protesters said.
They added that the equipment included food, medical supplies and electronic equipment meant to support their demonstration.
As the large crowd of police made the arrests, protesters gathered around chanting, “Show me what democracy looks like? This is what democracy looks like!” Others chanted “Shame!” as officers took the demonstrators away.
“Occupy Houston” said it would hold a press conference on Wednesday morning in response to the arrests, with a march and rally in front of the city’s municipal court building to follow in the afternoon.
Annise Parker, the mayor of Houston, has maintained that protesters are allowed to gather in Tranquility Park. She said last week on her official Facebook page that the city was not making plans to evict the demonstration.
“The City and Occupy Houston have a working relationship to allow protesters to exercise their first amendment rights without endangering public health or safety,” she claimed.
It was not immediately clear how a tarp protecting electronic equipment from rain posed a threat to public heath or safety.
Video of Tuesday’s arrests has been published to YouTube, and is available below. It contains some adult language.
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