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Police admit to infiltrating Occupy Austin, may have acted as provocateurs

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

Photo of an arrest at Occupy Austin by Ann Harkness via Flickr


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‘NPR will not be intimidated’: Mike Pompeo blasted for attacks on reporter Mary Louise Kelly

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National Public Radio (NPR) is standing by "All Things Considered" host Mary Louise Kelly after she was attacked by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

"One day after a contentious interview followed by an expletive-filled verbal lashing of NPR host Mary Louise Kelly, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is publicly accusing her of lying to him — 'twice,'" NPR reported. "He does not explain how and offers no evidence, but in their recorded interview the nation's top diplomat declined to respond when Kelly asked if he owed an apology to Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was ousted from that post last year after allies of President Trump accused her of disloyalty."

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Trump lawyers argue ‘the president did absolutely nothing wrong’ as GOP presents impeachment trial defense

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White House lawyers began their defense of Donald Trump at his historic Senate impeachment trial on Saturday, saying the president did nothing wrong in his dealings with Ukraine and American voters -- not Congress -- should decide his fate.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone said it would be a "completely irresponsible abuse of power" if the Senate follows the lead of the House of Representatives and votes to remove the 45th US president from office.

"They're asking you to do something that no Senate has ever done," Cipollone told the 100 senators gathered on a rainy Saturday morning for a rare weekend session at just the third impeachment trial in US history.

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Louise Linton defended Greta Thunberg against her husband’s attack — but deleted her comments in less than an hour

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The wife of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stood up against her husband online on Saturday, but quickly deleted her comments.

At the World Economic Forum, Mnuchin told climate action activist Greta Thunberg to "go study economics."

"I stand with Greta on this issue. (I don’t have a degree in economics either)," Linton posted on Instagram.

"We need to drastically reduce our use of fossil fuels," she explained.

"Keep up the fight @gretathunberg," she urged.

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