New developments in December Occupy arrests at Port of Houston

September 5, 2012 3:39:56 PM PDT
There are new developments in the case of a group of Occupy protestors who chained themselves together at the Port of Houston in December.

To this day, some of the protestors are fighting felony charges, and at least one is still in jail. They're facing felonies because of the pipe they used to lock themselves together.

And it turns out, that pipe was supplied by an undercover Austin police officer who had infiltrated the group. Both sides were back in court Wednesday.

We learned in court Wednesday HPD could be involved in the undercover scheme. We still don't know who or what division; that will come out in coming weeks. For now, prosecutors and Austin police have their work cut out for them.

"It's hard for me to believe that no one at HPD knew what the game was," defense attorney Greg Gladden said.

Gladden represents Ronnie Garza, an "Occupy" protestor charged with felony Unlawful Use of a Criminal Instrument. In December, Garza and six others chained themselves together using PVC pipes outside the Port of Houston. But those alleged criminal instruments apparently came from undercover Austin police officers.

"The police built them, furnished them, paid for them, adapted them and delivered them," Gladden said.

Gladden says the cops duped Garza and others into using PVC pipe lock boxes, knowing the protestors would be arrested on felony and not misdemeanors charges.

"Now we find out that APD and the Houston Police Department were intimately involved in getting these people charged with crimes," civil rights attorney Randall Kallinen said.

Kallinen represents Eric Marquez.

"My client is in jail on these charges, and he's been in jail for eight months," he said.

On Wednesday in court, Judge Joan Campbell required prospectors and police to turn over all emails, texts, receipts and other communication leading up to the December arrests. APD dodged most questions Wednesday.

"I won't comment on the communication that took place. I will say there was communication that took place and that will unfold in the courtroom," Austin Police Department Assistant Chief Sean Mannix said.

But the case hasn't hushed Garza. He's still protesting.

"You just need to be very careful about who you're planning and strategizing with and what the consequences will be," Garza said.

According to Wednesday's testimony, the fusion center was also involved in the arrests. The next hearing is set for September 25.

Late Wednesday, HPD issued the following statement:

"The Houston Police Department respects the First Amendment rights of Occupy Houston and has and will work with them cooperatively to ensure that the rights of all parties are preserved. Our relationship has always been one of openness and transparency when dealing with the rights of demonstrators.

We are unaware of what other agencies' policies, tactics and operations were relative to the Occupy Movement. We expect the criminal charges against Occupy members filed through the Harris County District Attorney's office to be resolved in the criminal courts."

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