Occupy Dallas campground can continue through Friday

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by JONATHAN BETZ

WFAA

Posted on October 10, 2011 at 7:30 PM

Updated Monday, Nov 25 at 3:36 AM

Occupy Dallas campsite

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DALLAS — The Occupy Wall Street movement continues to spread across the country.

Protests began in New York City nearly four weeks ago, with demonstrators generally calling an end to corporate greed.

About three dozen people peacefully protested in Fort Worth's Burnett Park on Monday.

In downtown Dallas, a growing group has now occupied Pioneer Plaza for five days. Concern is growing about the campground that has taken shape.

But the City of Dallas has now issued a special permit that gives protesters the right to continue to use Pioneer Plaza for "a First Amendment activity"  through Friday at 5 p.m. as long as they meet certain conditions — including a $1 million liability insurance policy.

Members of the group made the short walk to City Hall earlier in the day, asking to meet with Mayor Mike Rawlings.

"We expect to get the city on our side," said Cooper Caraway, an activist who is one of the leaders of the protest.

For five days, the Occupy Dallas group — part of a national movement — has been squatting at Pioneer Plaza in violation of city regulations.

The Dallas City Manager accepted a note from the protesters, but would not speak with the group.

Many at City Hall — including two City Council members — told News 8 they were actually unaware of the group.

"The Dallas Police Department has assured us that they will not make any move, and they've also assured us they will notify us and give us 24-hour notice if they decide to disperse us," Caraway said.

But others, like Janette Monear of the Texas Trees Foundation, want the protesters to leave Pioneer Plaza. "It's troublesome," she said.

Monear's non-profit foundation cares for the popular park next to the Dallas Convention Center. She's deeply worried about potential damage to the park's landscaping.

"I think this could be expensive if we have to go in and re-sod," she said. "As a non-profit, we don't have a lot of money."

But members of the Occupy Dallas group insist they are being careful to recycle and to avoid littering.

But their focus is on a larger message against the government and big corporations.

The Reeves family joined the movement with their three young children after being unemployed and drifting for months.

"It's been extremely hard," Nelli Reeves said "You think because it's a big city, there's a lot of help here and a lot of jobs — but there's not, and its just getting worse and worse."

In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday he'll let Wall Street protesters stay indefinitely as long as they don't break the law.

Occupy Dallas is facing a Friday deadline.

E-mail jbetz@wfaa.com

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