Final night for Occupy Dallas?

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by BRAD WATSON, CYNTHIA VEGA and BRETT SHIPP

WFAA

Posted on November 15, 2011 at 5:21 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 5 at 4:52 PM

DALLAS — Attorneys for Occupy Dallas and the city said late Tuesday afternoon that they plan to meet Wednesday to discuss 'next steps' for the protest group's encampment near City Hall.

"No action will be taken this evening at Occupy Dallas," Mayor Mike Rawlings said in a statement issued at 5:16 p.m. Tuesday. "The city has attempted to balance this group's First Amendment rights with the city’s responsibility to protect the activists and general public. Public safety and the health conditions at the encampment remain a paramount concern."

As the city was clarifying its position, about 100 protesters took part in an impromptu "general assembly" on the south lawn of City Hall. An attorney for the group admonished them to stop drinking, stop using illegal drugs and stop having sex on city property.

Earlier, U.S. District Judge Jane Boyle denied a temporary restraining order sought by a lawyer representing the Occupy Dallas group hoping to keep the protest in a small park behind City Hall.

"The bottom line is: We lost," said Jonathan Winocour, the lawyer representing Occupy Dallas.

The ruling means that the city is free to remove the demonstrators from City Hall property after 4 p.m. Tuesday.

"There would be nothing to stop the city from terminating the agreement if it wished to do so," said Dallas Assistant City Attorney Chris Bowers.

"I am preparing for that today in case something happens," said Dan Getz, a protester, said earlier before the decision. "I've heard other cities where things were bulldozed down and your stuff is gone."

Seventeen Dallas police vehicles were observed  in a parking lot not far from the Occupy Dallas encampment, and a large group of mototorcycle police were waiting at another location nearby.

The city said the protesters violated an agreement. Demonstrators agreed not to use the restrooms in city property, but they said some did that anyway. 

An attorneys for Occupy Dallas went before the federal judge this morning asking for a temporary restraining order to stop the city from taking action. He argued the group's First Amendment Rights  would be violated becasue of vagueness in the agreement between the city and the protesters reguarding the kinds of signs at the site and the the use of city hall restrooms. 

However, Judge Boyle denied the request, saying she decided their argument would likely not succeed.

“I don't think we necessarily have an avenue of address other than to go perhaps to the City Council and see if they will exercise some forbearance," Winocour said.  "But ... we no longer have a right, we no longer have an avenue or forum a judicial forum in which to argue.”

Occupy Dallas Organizer Rich Coffman said he finds the ruling disappointing after his group worked hard to comply with the city's demands. He said the city hasn't held up its promise to allow the demonstrators to stay through December 14.

Some Occupy Dallas demonstrators said they will relocate to private property in another unnamed area of Dallas and others said they are still undecided about what to do next.

But Winocour was talking about the end game after Tuesday's courtroom activity.

"Perhaps an approach from the city with 24 hours' notice, 'We'd like you to disengage and go home,'" he said.

Tuesday marked Day 41 of the Occupy Dallas protest.

E-mail bwatson@wfaa.com
 

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