Sex assault prompts security boost at Occupy Dallas camp

Print
Email
|

by STEVE STOLER

WFAA

Posted on November 1, 2011 at 10:17 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 2 at 10:32 AM

DALLAS — The face of the Occupy Dallas movement we've come to know over the past few weeks shows protesters angry over wealth and upset with big banks.

Now a convicted sex offender has overshadowed those demonstrators.

Richard Wayne Armstrong, 24, is charged with sexually assaulting a 14-year-old runaway from Garland at the protest group's downtown campsite. Police said Armstrong had been part of the group living in the tent city near City Hall, but he failed to register as a sex offender in Dallas County.

That's raising questions about the dozens of protesters camped out downtown. We did our own survey to find out more about their backgrounds.

The question: Who's living in this tent city?

"I'd like to say there's an easy explanation or an easy way to solve these kinds of things from happening, but unfortunately, in the position that we're in here, we're going to have to be dealing with some security issues," said Aaron Stouder, one of the protesters.

Sarah Peace, 21, remembers the girl who told police she had sex with the man who is now accused of assaulting her.

"It's an extremely serious issue. She was a 14-year-old girl," Peace said. "I spoke with her. She told me she was 19 years of age. We now know we have learned from this that we need to check that."

Protest leaders told us they will start asking anyone who looks underage to prove how old they are.

Even with the arrest, Peace says she feels safe at the Occupy Dallas campground.

"Nothing is foolproof, and we don't have a barrier around us. We don't have a fence around us," Peace said. "It is really, really easy to walk up."

News 8 started asking questions about the residents of Occupy Dallas last week. Conducting our own survey, we asked a series of questions to nearly 40 protesters.

We found most are from North Texas; seven live out of state. Ages range from 18 to 50, and only half voted in the last election.

The majority of the Occupy Dallas protesters are educated, most having gone to a college or junior college.

The demonstrators have formed a group called Firewatch, a committee that serves as security. They have teams of four who guard the camp in rotating shifts each night.

"They walk through. they keep an eye on things, they look for disturbances," Stouder said.

But Occupy Dallas leaders say if anything major happens, the first order of business is to tell Dallas police, who are on around-the-clock watch.

Police said they have addressed the security at the camp and are not concerned.

E-mail stoler@wfaa.com

Print
Email
|