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The Reality of #D12, GULFPORT ACTION, and Felony Charges

Now that we’ve hit national news, thanks to MSNBC, I believe it’s worth collating some pieces of reality together for anyone confused about the happenings of GULFPORT ACTION and #D12 here in the mighty H-Town.

The inspiration came from the first of recent port shutdowns in Oakland. In Houston,  though less fierce, we were still interested in getting noticed. Interestingly, it may make for different news than we originally planned for (which is okay).  For both Austin and Houston, on December 12th, Occupy Gulf Port day, arrestees were detained and jailed for “use of a criminal instrument” (according to legal record), something that didn’t get reported by Oakland or the other port occupations across the nation. The schedule for the day was set down like thus.

If you aren’t yet familiar with this “criminal instrument” in reference here, the tactic is called the “sleeping dragon.”  Protestors on #D12 used this to stay chained (voluntarily) by PVC pipe, arm by arm, while laying down in the road. This way, they make it much harder to individually zip-tie and arrest in isolated fashion.

example of the sleeping dragon tactic which has sparked a controversy over what is considered a felony

the "Sleeping Dragon"

All things come to a close; in this case, the doors were literally closed. In the midst of the human mic loud at work, HPD officers block off the crowd from the people in the street and erect an inflatable red isolation room, as seen in this video. Interestingly, this was also the first example, at least in Houston, of the Police and Fire Dept working together to erect an inflatable tent (ah the irony). Why?

According to John Cannon, HPD Spokesman, it “was placed over the protesters to prevent sparks” while Houston Fire Dept. cut through the PVC links. Really? I feel like there’s more to it than that. This is a great tool for crowd control and privacy from the omnipresent electronic eye, determined to record every piece of the happenings of the day, bound to wind up on the internet for thousands to view and rally next to. It’s a shiesty method to block off news cameras–even the choppers in the sky had issues seeing in. I can’t help but remember Nov. 15th, the night  #OWS got ousted from Liberty Square and the NYPD literally corralled the media crews to prevent them from seeing the whole scene. Hey, even a woman got punched that morning, after they already had a court order to come back into the park. I was listening to my police scanner app and tweeting until 3am CST.

Ultimately, the PVC pipe inconveniences the police–it takes more time and more effort on the cops end and, in the scope of HPD, I can’t say they’ve had the most patient track record for handling events considered “crimes” to maintain public safety. For the purposes of this post, HPD isn’t really the issue, yet digressing a moment might better educate you about our local police force. It’s disconcerting to say the least.

If you don’t know what I mean, go start googling statistics of HPD shootings or something, or the tasers they employ (link 1, link 2) and events of shooting unarmed people (I think the term is “trigger happy”). Or, you can go look at the forensics problems HPD has created issues regarding DNA testing, firearm ballistics, and more. You can also read the Wiki article, (which sums it the mess alright). As you probe further, take a look at the number of innocent people convicted of felony charges, life sentences, and such and you’ll get an idea of how many times HPD has aided in jumping the gun on justice and destroyed a few lives on the way.

I don’t mention that lightly. What 7 current occupants in limbo are facing is up to a 2 year sentence in prison (and even that may change) for committing a felony crime. It’s nothing to scoff about. Even if it takes a year to clear (and it may), it’s still going to be drawn out and waste precious time, energy, and money on something that is (clearly) a non-issue, at least, according to Judge Joan Campbell:

“Campbell ruled the protesters’ use of a so-called “sleeping dragon” or “arm tube” – a PVC pipe used to shackle their arms inside to keep police from handcuffing them – did not meet legal requirements of being a criminal instrument, Barnett said.” –via Chron.com

However, like the weather in Houston, politics is always around and constantly shifting. Since a week ago, the decision that HPD didn’t have a probable cause sat poorly in the minds of the District Attorney’s Office, whom six days ago decided that they would seek an indictment to really hit home this idea that they are interested in setting a precedent with our activists. Even in their proposed logic, I’d call it a stretch at a minimum.

Check for Road Apples. They were there on N17. Truth.

So, Tuesday, thanks to the powers that be, our Austin and Houston occupants indeed got indicted. For real. Check this out. Seriously? What’s next? City of Houston taxpayer money, shouldn’t you be used to better educational system, or make our HPD happier (that’s right, I said it; They’ve had major funding cuts too, hence being part of the 99%). Okay, I kid. At least this way, their choppers that are patrolling homes with heat scanners are grounded.

In all seriousness, there’s one great thing about this–just one right now, in my eyes–despite the bail money used and the ceaseless efforts to get our friends out of jail, we’ve made national news and, this time, it’s a lot more intense than zombie flash mobs.

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Tooth and Nail OccupyHouston Will Prevail

I believe this.

If you don’t, take a look around and ask yourself, “why shouldn’t I believe that my participation in a community effort, that has an international following, will make a difference?” Last I checked, there are 951 occupations worldwide in 82 countries. Tell me that isnt #solidarity. Now is the time to show that Every Little Bit Helps–and your involvement will shape HOW it helps. So follow me, city of Houston (and beyond), if you will.

Occupy Houston is, in many ways, like other occupy movements melding together out of mutual causes and beliefs; however, noting the distinctions is a worthwhile endeavor to clarify root issues this flavor of the movement will continue to face in the name of progress.

I’ve seen people from many walks of life here–full time employees of major companies, small business owners, part-time baristas, housewives, lone rangers and rebels. Also worth noting are the many that are homeless (previous groups included) due to economic insecurity, family issues, drug abuse, or a willingness to give themselves to the cause of OWS (the 24hr occupants), freeing themselves from some of the previous responsibilities of their lives prior to OH. The jobless have tried again and again to find work or were threatened by the very employers they rely on to sustain their families. Unions lack power in a right-to-work state, especially recently.

Occupy Houston has a fundamental need to understand its roots and purpose in local government and politics around the greater Houston area and the rest of Texas as well. Our political leanings and local economy distinguish us from other regions in Texas also.

Those who have traveled across the country, especially in the light of recent events, have had more of a taste of the flavors of occupie and activism, beyond Houston, as well as issues our local movement may not be familiar with. The best, and probably largest, current examples we have to learn from are in Egypt, Lybia, and OWS, with OccupyLA making more headlines lately.

With regard to this, Occupy Houston, specifically, serves purposes in the community, too, but what can we share that other flavors of the movement haven’t yet had a taste of? Based on current sustainability efforts in Tranquility Park and the discussions about Mobile Occupation, our best moves may yet be the ability to mobilize a huge city in near-completely invisble solidarity. Or do we stick it out and show how to occupy a public park and, by tooth and nail, turn it into one of the best sustainability efforts Houston (and elsewhere) has seen yet? What are OH’s abilities to meet needs which are invisible anywhere else? How can we diversify the palate of Houston’s residents to battle apathy? How do we better tailor the movement’s efforts to meeting the needs of the stricken and willing 99%?

Let’s share a taste of OccHouPie with the world. Why? Because flavors of occupie taste different–they’re made different and they have different ingredients (but they have the same base elements). Besides, H-town’s pretty tasty.

PS: Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you shared your love for pie and each other with one another under the roof of #solidarity that will continue to change the way we look at the world from this point on.

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