Occupy

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel declared a city policy used to ban Occupy Austin protesters from City Hall unconstitutional this past Thursday, following suit with similar recent rulings nationwide.

The declaration from Yeakel comes as part of the final ruling in a lawsuit filed against the city by Rodolfo Sanchez and Kristopher Sleeman, two protesters with Occupy Austin. The Austin movement is a subset of the national movement, Occupy Wall Street, which promotes financial and social equality. The suit was filed by the plaintiffs in response to being banned from City Hall in October of last year, according to the order.

The overturned policy is titled Criminal Trespass Notices on City Property and addresses the rules and procedures for issuing bans from city property that often accompanies criminal trespass charges received there. The policy allows for police discretion in determining the duration of a ban. It also specifies the review and appeal process for the bans, according to the order.

Sanchez and Sleeman were both banned from City Hall following criminal trespass arrests. Because of the policy’s vagueness and appeal process, it was ruled to be an “erroneous deprivation” of First and 14th Amendment freedoms, according to the order.

The overturned policy was signed into effect last November by City Manager Marc Ott, roughly one month after Occupy Austin protesting at City Hall began, according to the order.

English graduate student Trevor Hoag has participated in protests with the Austin and UT Occupy movements and is focusing his graduate dissertation on the national movement’s struggles. He said the policy is one example of many policies passed throughout the country in regard to the Occupy movement that trample First Amendment rights. He said the policy sets a precedent that could be used to defend public freedoms for years to come.

“It shocked me deeply the way that the protesters were responded to because it seemed to be such an obvious disregard for freedom of speech and the First Amendment,” he said.

Hoag said he hopes this ruling will now be used as a precedent to dismiss other policies in order to further protect the freedom of speech that the nation was built on.

“The precedents from these cases are going to be important because the same things are going to happen again,” Hoag said. “Legal and other actions need to be taken to ensure that those actions, those protest actions, can be as successful as possible in the future. People deserve access to their full rights of speech and assembly without fear.”

The policy enacted in Febuary restricting public use of the City Hall between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. remains in effect. Hoag said he hopes the policy is overturned next so the Occupy encampment of the City Hall can resume again and the movement can gain back lost visibility.

SAN FRANCISCO — May Day protests may disrupt the morning commute in major U.S. cities Tuesday as labor, immigration and Occupy activists rally support on the international workers’ holiday. Demonstrations, strikes and acts of civil disobedience are being planned around the country, including the most visible organizing effort by anti-Wall Street groups since Occupy encampments came down in the fall.

While protesters are backing away from a call to block San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, bridge district ferry workers said they’ll strike Tuesday morning to shut down ferry service, which brings commuters from Marin County to the city. Ferry workers have been in contract negotiations for a year and have been working without a contract since July 2011 in a dispute over health care coverage, the Inlandboatmen’s Union said.

A coalition of bridge and bus workers said they will honor the picket line, which may target an area near the bridge’s toll plaza. Occupy activists from San Francisco and Oakland are expected to join the rally.

“We ask supporters to stand with us at strike picket lines on May Day and to keep the bridge open,” said Alex Tonisson, an organizer and co-chair of the Golden Gate Bridge Labor Coalition.

Police say they are working with other area law enforcement agencies and have a plan in place for potential disruptions. They would not discuss specifics.

Across the bay in Oakland, where police and Occupy protesters have often clashed, officers are preparing for a long day as hundreds of “General Strike” signs have sprouted across town.

In New York City, where the first Occupy camp was set up and where large protests brought some of the earliest attention — and mass arrests — to the movement, leaders plan a variety of events, including picketing, a march through Manhattan and other “creative disruptions against the corporations who rule our city.”

Organizers have called for protesters to block one or more bridges or tunnels connecting Manhattan, the city’s economic engine, to New Jersey and other parts of the city.

The Occupy movement began in September with a small camp in a lower Manhattan plaza that quickly grew to include hundreds of protesters using the tent city as their home base. More than 700 people were arrested Oct. 1 as they tried to cross the Brooklyn Bridge.

The city broke the camp up in November, citing sanitary and other concerns, but the movement has held smaller events and protests periodically since then.

Elsewhere on the West Coast, Occupy Seattle has called for people to rally at a park near downtown Tuesday. Mayor Mike McGinn has warned residents there could be traffic delays and has said city officials have evidence — including graffiti and posters — that some groups plan to “commit violence, damage property and disrupt peaceful free speech activity.”

In Los Angeles, Occupy is organizing a daylong “people’s power and bike caravan” that will start from the four cardinal directions around the city in the morning, converging on downtown LA’s financial district in the mid afternoon for an approximately 90-minute protest. The themes of the marches are foreclosures and police brutality.

In a website statement, Occupy LA promised the event will be “city-paralyzing” and “carnivalesque” with en route actions including a food giveaway.

Printed on Tuesday, May 1st, 2012: Occupy plans for May Day protests 'without the 99%'

Perhaps I’m being greedy. Perhaps there are more important issues, such as sweatshop labor, rising tuition costs and expensive student loans. But right now, the issues facing the University have finally hit home. This week, the McCombs School of Business decided that the Millennium Lab, one of the most frequently used resources in the business school, is to be shut down. Quite frankly, this the one of the worst decisions the business school could have made for its students.

Anyone who takes a look into the Millennium Lab — affectionately called the Mil Lab — will immediately understand its importance. It is packed with students all day. It serves as a place to collaborate and work with groups, a place to use hard-to-find and impossible-to-buy software and a place to get printing done quickly, easily and without cost. Removing it would affect hundreds, if not thousands, of students every day.

Business majors pay more in tuition than any other undergraduate at the University. With that, students expect all that extra money to benefit them in more ways than the occasional free meal at networking events. The Mil Lab helps students increase their productivity, collaborate and complete assignments. It is both more useful and more used than any other resource in the entire building. If the business school truly cared about its students, it would be building a second Mil Lab and doubling the study rooms in the Reliant Productivity Center.

And the Mil Lab does more than just help business students. It helps offload the already extensive demand for computers at the Perry-Castañeda Library. Without it, the waitlist for PCL computers would be that much worse. Business and non-business students alike would suffer as a result.

Look McCombs, we get it. You’re running a business. In fact, business is what you teach, so it should come as no surprise that profit is the only thing driving these types of decisions. But you’re also here to educate students, and part of that responsibility involves providing for them and giving them the resources to maximize their productivity. The Mil Lab does exactly that.

If McCombs were to eliminate the Mil Lab, students would have to download all of the multi-thousand dollar Excel add-ons and other MIS, accounting or statistics software to their own machines, which would probably cost the school even more. If McCombs needs to cut spending, there are far more effective places to do so. Free brownies in the Business Honors Program office, I’m looking at you.

But this article will accomplish nothing if it falls on deaf ears. Students must make their opinion very clear to David Burns, head of computer services, as well as Dean Thomas Gilligan. Most of all, students must pressure their professors and respective department heads. Professors, especially those teaching technical majors such as MIS, will not want their students crippled by the business school’s greed, and their input has far more impact than that of a student.

If all else fails, business students should band together and learn from the one group that most of them despise: the Occupiers. If anything can be learned from that rowdy lot of professional protesters, it is that a great amount of attention and annoyance can be generated from standing in one spot, shouting obnoxiously and refusing to leave. Perhaps staking a permanent presence in the Mil Lab will help the administration see that students take their resources seriously. McCombs take note: If the future targets of the Occupy movement are willing to occupy themselves to prove a point, you know you have a problem.

McGarvey is a business honors freshman.

A plain-clothes police officer arrests an Occupy Wall Street demonstrator near Zuccotti Park after a march in celebration of the protest’s sixth month, Saturday, March 17, 2012, in New York. With the city’s attention focused on the huge St. Patrick’s Day Parade many blocks uptown, the Occupy rally drew a far smaller crowd than the demonstrations when the movement was at its peak.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

NEW YORK — Dozens of police officers cleared the park where the Occupy movement was born six months ago and made several arrests after hundreds of protesters returned in an anniversary observance and defiantly resisted calls to clear out.

Some demonstrators locked arms and sat down in the middle of Zuccotti Park near Wall Street after police announced on a bullhorn at around 11:30 p.m. Saturday that the park was closed. Officers then poured into the park, forcing most of the crowd out and surrounding a small group that stayed behind. Police formed a human ring around the park to keep protesters out.

Several people were arrested, police said. An unused public transit bus was used to cart away about a dozen demonstrators in plastic handcuffs.

For hours, the demonstrators had been chanting and holding impromptu meetings in the park to celebrate the six-month anniversary, as police mainly kept their distance.

But New York Police Det. Brian Sessa said the tipping point came when the protesters started breaking the park rules.

“They set up tents. They had sleeping bags,” he said. Electrical boxes also were tampered with and there was evidence of graffiti. Sessa said Brookfield Properties, the park owner, sent in security to advise the protesters to stop pitching tents and to leave the park. The protesters, in turn, became agitated with them. The company then asked the police to help them clear out the park, the detective said.

“Most of the people, they left the park,” Sessa said. “People who refused to leave and were staying were arrested.”

Sandra Nurse, a member of Occupy’s direct action working group, said police treated demonstrators roughly and made arbitrary arrests. “I didn’t see any sleeping bags,” she said. “There was a banner hung between two trees and a tarp thrown over it ... It wasn’t a tent. It was an erect thing, if that’s what you want to call it.”

She said they had reports of about 25 demonstrators arrested in the police sweep.

Earlier in the day, with the city’s attention focused on the huge St. Patrick’s Day parade many blocks uptown, the Occupy rally at Zuccotti drew hundreds of people.Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, who had given a speech at a nearby university, also made an appearance at the park, milling around with protesters.

With the barricades that once blocked them from Wall Street now removed, the protesters streamed down the sidewalk and covered the steps of the Federal Hall National Memorial. There, steps from the New York Stock Exchange and standing at the feet of a statue of George Washington, they danced and chanted, “We are unstoppable.”

Police say arrests were made, but they didn’t have a full count yet.

As always, the protesters focused on a variety of concerns, but for Tom Hagan, his sights were on the giants of finance.

“Wall Street did some terrible things, especially Goldman Sachs, but all of them. Everyone from the banks to the rating agencies, they all knew they were doing wrong. ... But they did it anyway. Because the money was too big,” he said.

Dressed in an outfit that might have been more appropriate for the St. Patrick’s Day parade, the 61-year-old salesman wore a green shamrock cap and carried a sign asking for saintly intervention: “St. Patrick: Drive the snakes out of Wall Street.”

Stacy Hessler held up a cardboard sign that read, “Spring is coming,” a reference, she said, both to the Arab Spring and to the warm weather that is returning to New York City. She said she believes the nicer weather will bring the crowds back to Occupy protests, where numbers have dwindled in recent months since the group’s encampment was ousted from Zuccotti Park by authorities in November.

But now, “more and more people are coming out,” said the 39-year-old, who left her home in Florida in October to join the Manhattan protesters and stayed through much of the winter. “The next couple of months, things are going to start to grow, like the flowers.”

Some have questioned whether the group can regain its momentum. This month, the finance accounting group in New York City reported that just about $119,000 remained in Occupy’s bank account — the equivalent of about two weeks’ worth of expenses.

But Hessler said the group has remained strong, and she pronounced herself satisfied with what the Occupy protesters have accomplished over the last half year.

“It’s changed the language,” she said. “It’s brought out a lot of issues that people are talking about. ... And that’s the start of change.”

PORTLAND, Maine — A tent city in Maine that is among the longest-lived of the Occupy movement is being dismantled as part of a new round of evictions.

Demonstrators removed several communal tents over the weekend in Portland and the city extended Monday’s eviction deadline to give them time to remove 16 remaining tents.

Occupy Maine has an office and plans to continue the discussion about corporate excesses and economic inequality. One camper noted that “just because the occupation is changing form doesn’t mean it’s going away.”

But encampments are becoming scarcer. On Monday, a judge issued a final eviction notice for Occupy Pittsburgh. Over the past week, police began removing demonstrators in Miami; Austin; and Washington, D.C.

Editor’s note: From developments in the Occupy movement to Willie Nelson’s endorsement of Mayor Lee Leffingwell, the following quotes are among the best from the last few days.

“While you might say, ‘Hoo, man, that’s a lot of money,’ that was something actually earned by Ed over an 11-year period with an 11-year retention hook to it.”
— John Bethancourt, chairman of the Texas A&M Foundation, remarking on criticism regarding the compensation of A&M’s president, Eddie Davis, according to the Austin American-Statesman. Davis received $786,983 for the year ending June 30, 2010.

“John is a very talented faculty member. He’s one of the most prominent scholars we have in the University.”
— Tom Gilligan, dean of the McCombs School of Business, on the compensation of John Daly, UT communication studies and business professor. Daly received more than $100,000 in supplements to his salary in 2010 from the McCombs School of Business Foundation, according to the Statesman.

“We think the way that we have worked with the Occupiers has been a model ... What we have noticed throughout this movement is that the movement changed. We continue to respect free speech.”
— Assistant City Manager Michael McDonald, after protesters at Occupy Austin were evicted by police Friday, according to the Statesman.


“We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women’s lives ... We ask for the public’s understanding and patience as we ... determine how to move forward in the best interests of the women and people we serve.”
— The Susan G. Komen Foundation in a press release Friday. The foundation came under fire last week for its decision to withdraw financial support for breast exams at Planned Parenthood.

“There are a lot of people calling for a special session, but we don’t see the need for one.”
— Bill Peacock, executive at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, criticizing the call for a special session at the state Legislature to reform school finance, according to Texas Public Radio.

“I am gratified to learn that the U.S. attorney’s office is closing its investigation. It is the right decision, and I commend them for reaching it.”
— Austinite and Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, in response to the closing of a federal investigation of Armstrong regarding allegations of steroid use, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

“I love Austin, and I think Mayor Leffingwell has done a real good job of helping keep it a special place.”
— Musician Willie Nelson endorsing Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell in his reelection bid, according to Leffingwell’s campaign website.

At its meeting Monday, Faculty Council discussed a new University policy, issued Jan. 11, prohibiting camping on University property. Few in attendance doubted what triggered the policy change: the Occupy movement, which is moving nationwide to campuses.

The University cited its commitment to a “clean, aesthetically pleasing, healthy and safe work, educational and living environment” as its rationale for implementing the new rule. Some University officials expressed doubt that UT’s sudden allergy to camp-outs and the Occupy Wall Street Movement were linked, but irrespective of any immediate reasons for the change, its imposition may have worrisome consequences for students’ First Amendment rights in the future.

UT has a long and significant history of student protest, as chronicled by UT Watch.

In October of 1944, when then-University President Homer Rainey fired UT economics professors whose teachings upset the UT Board of Regents, 8,000 students, faculty and staff marched down the Drag in objection to his decision.

Some 15 years later, the first student-led civil rights protest in the University’s history occurred in March of 1960, when black students picketed a Board of Regents meeting to object to their exclusion from much of University student life. A strong and lasting civil rights movement at UT grew and flourished in the ensuing years. In 1961, students staged successful sit-ins in protest of the segregation of the Drag. In October 1965, Students for a Democratic Society held the first student-led, anti-war protest at the University. After the The Daily Texan editorial board supported the march, Frank Erwin, then-chairman of the UT System Board of Regents, threatened to abolish the board.

In 1970, police fired tear gas at the 3,000 UT students, staff and faculty marching in honor of the four students shot by the U.S. National Guard at Kent State University. In response, University officials added landscaping to the West Mall to prevent large groups from congregating in the area.

More recent examples speak to the continued tradition of protest. In 1986, more than 180 people were arrested on the Main Mall after they rallied in a call for more free speech on campus.

In 1997, a UT law professor’s claims that African-American and Mexican-American students were not academically competitive spurred more than 7,000 students, staff and faculty to rally. And fewer than 10 years ago, in 2003, 3,000 students walked out in objection to a potential war in Iraq. The walk-out occurred after students bearing tents and signs camped out for three nights on the Main Mall.

The preceding list is by no means exhaustive, but it makes clear that UT students’ rights to free speech in the form of physical protest constantly defined the social and physical grounds on which UT exists today.

The new anti-camping policy’s stated purpose is that it “allows the University to control University buildings and grounds consistent with the rules and regulations of the Board of Regents ... prohibiting the use of University property or buildings for purposes unrelated to the regular programs and activities of the University.” Some argue that the stated purpose of the Occupy movement is less clear and that the cost of connected campsites to host grounds are clearly high. But this new policy, which excepts University authorized artistic performances, tailgating and camping in times of natural disasters, could be twisted in the future to silence student protest. Without student protests in the past, this University would be a very different place today.

So far, overall student response to the new policy has been nil. Whether you support the Occupy movement or have plans to camp on campus, University officials have daringly revoked your option to do so without much noise made in protest. That itself is cause for alarm. 

Students and faculty criticized University administration for a new rule restricting camping on campus and questioned the motivation at a time when camping is a prime symbol of the Occupy movement at a faculty council meeting Monday.

University spokesman Gary Susswein said the amendment to the Handbook of Operating Procedures took effect Jan. 11. The Office of Legal Affairs drafted the amendment. President William Powers Jr. then reviewed it and submitted it to the University of Texas System, where it was approved by the executive vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, Susswein said.

The amendment defines camping on campus as the attempt to establish temporary or permanent living quarters outside University housing, sleeping outdoors between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. and setting up a sleeping area at anytime with tents and other “sleeping equipment.” People may not camp on campus except in cases of sports tailgating, performances authorized by the University and natural disaster situations.

Patricia Ohlendorf, vice president for Legal Affairs, said the amendment is not a response to Occupy UT protest concerns, but is supposed to clarify rules already enforced by the University. Powers said the administration will help students interested in protesting.

“If it’s the symbolic act of putting up tents we can work with that,” Powers said.

Powers said the amendment is important to reiterate the University’s position.

“I don’t think we want people for long periods of time camping on campus,” Powers said.

The Occupy UT movement has protested against several grievances, including proposed tuition increases, but it has not used camping as a form of protest. Assistant English Professor Snehal Shingavi said the amendment seems like a response targeting the Occupy movement.

“I think that it has a political motivation,” Shingavi said. “It’s been presented in a way to intimidate students from protests.”

Marketing professor Mark Alpert said there are rational reasons to limit camping, such as campus safety. He said the amendment is not an administrative attempt to limit free speech, but is an important clarification to provide to students.

“I think this administration is trying to encourage students to protest,” Alpert said. “A lot of people are trying to work to help people to disagree with us.”

Lucian Villaseñor, Mexican-American studies senior and Occupy UT member, said it feels like the administration is trying to squelch Occupy UT. Villaseñor said occupying a space at UT is still a possibility if membership numbers increase.

“The only way to receive any change here is to not operate within the system,” Villaseñor said. Villaseñor said the administration should not make exceptions for other groups if Occupy UT is not allowed to camp out. He said administrators approached individual Occupy UT members but did not attend general meetings to discuss the camping issue.

“They’re trying to outline how we can have a toothless protest,” Villaseñor said. “Maybe they think we’re a threat to the University.”

President of the Senate of College Councils Carisa Nietsche and Student Body President Natalie Butler address the attendees of the third Tuition Policy Advisory Committee before the start of the third and final forum Monday afternoon.

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan Staff

The booming voices of Occupy UT members filled the room as they chanted in opposition to proposed tuition increases and closed meetings while three UT Police Department officers stood guard.

The Tuition Policy Advisory Committee had its third public forum Wednesday evening to discuss its recommendation for a tuition increase. The proposal came after the Texas Legislature decreased UT’s biennial budget by $92 million. TPAC has met fewer than 10 times this fall to deliberate on the tuition-setting process and ultimately agreed to recommend a tuition increase of 2.6 percent for Texas resident undergraduates for the next years, raising the average cost to $127 per semester for 2012-13 and $131 for 2013-14. The committee also proposed a 3.6-percent increase for nonresident undergraduates and all graduate students.

After the presentation by TPAC, the Occupy members stood up and recited a speech to the board to express their disagreement. The chant, which was read out by the members simultaneously, reflected their frustration with UT’s tuition-setting process. A few occupiers questioned President William Powers Jr. on his decision to support the tuition increase, but Powers declined to give a direct response to their question.

The main issues Occupy members brought up included a lack of student involvement in the decisions to raise tuition and the need for the budget to be re-evaluated rather than tuition increased.

Student body President Natalie Butler and Carisa Nietsche, Senate of the College Councils president, both said multiple student organizations had been involved in the decision to raise tuition.

“The students had their voice, and they were actively a part in this discussion,” Nietsche said. “They went to town halls, and they understood the implications.”

During the question-and-answer portion of the forum, Occupy members approached the microphone to question TPAC members about the need to increase tuition.

“Deregulation pits students against workers,” said Teri Adams, a women and gender studies senior. “I wasn’t planning ahead to make a lot of money, and you have people like me who want to follow their passions.”

Social work senior Sara Yamada said she didn’t understand why UT spends funds on new buildings as opposed to using those funds for education.

“Are we trying to invest in people’s minds or are we trying to invest in entertainment?” Yamada said.

Printed on Thursday, December 1, 2011 as: Occupy UT protesters attend public budget forum, express concerns about involvement

Waves of protests spread across the globe over the last year from Egypt to Greece, demonstrating the strength of the human spirit. Refusing to be outdone, the United States began participating in this new-age movement of empowering the common man and fighting for social justice through Occupy Wall Street. Most recently, a new movement, Occupy Colleges, branched off of this upheaval. Though we have not started our own Occupy UT movement, many UT students can relate to the struggles these movements are protesting.

While similar to Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Colleges has its own distinctive message: Students will no longer stand for the increasing level of debt they are accruing from college loans and poor job prospects. Students from low-income families, students from the upper class and university professors aiming to focus the movement in an effective direction are participating in these protests. These forces are gathering together to contend the 9.1-percent unemployment rate for 2010 college graduates, which is among the highest levels in history. The Project on Student Debt, a research and policy nonprofit organization, claims that class of 2010 students graduated with an average of $25,250 in debt, a 5-percent increase from 2009.

Various universities are addressing Occupy Colleges through differing methods. For instance, many schools have been staging peaceful protests, only to be interrupted by police forces donned in riot gear. University of California, Davis students most recently faced police attack in the form of mass pepper spraying. Similarly, 39 University of California, Berkeley protesters, including an associate professor, were brutalized and arrested.

Conversely, Harvard University’s protests aim to revamp the Harvard name, changing its reputation of pretention and nepotistic exclusivity to one of equal opportunity and meritocracy. An article in the Harvard Crimson called upon the university to abolish tuition in place of a legally binding agreement that students will “devote a small share of their future earnings to the University.” Through this method, students will feel free to pursue the career of their dreams, irrespective of salary, without fear of burdensome tuition loans.

Regardless of method, however, the importance of this movement is the solidarity shared between colleges. Across the country, students are rising up together to fight for a cause they believe in. Some commentators find similarities between Occupy Colleges and the Civil Rights Movement. Obviously, the purposes of both movements differ greatly, but it is noteworthy that the Civil Rights Movement’s methods of student-led nonviolent protest are carrying into our generation. Our nation sees important change actualized through these methods, demonstrating the power of peaceful protest and giving hope to Occupy Colleges protesters nationwide.

UT does not have an Occupy movement of its own, likely because of varying forces such as Austin’s relatively better economy and UT’s persevering success and growth despite budget cuts. The multitude of opportunities and connections offered at a college of this size prevents us from feeling the effects that many students nationwide are currently reeling from.

However, with our nation’s tumultuous economy and job market, UT students, too, could potentially experience the same student debt worries and lack of job opportunities, which is why we must support the Occupy Colleges movement. Despite our somewhat more fortunate circumstances, our peers are fighting for their voices to be heard, even braving an intensification of police crackdowns, and we must support their struggle.

Brown University history professor Robert Self noted that, “There hasn’t for a long time been a single issue like the civil rights or the war in Vietnam that brings a whole generation together.” Occupy Colleges forges camaraderie among universities nationwide and is once again demonstrating the power of peaceful protest. University-level activism of this scale has the power to be more effective than smaller scale protests, and for this reason, university students should support this movement.

Waliany is a Plan II and government senior.