Dallas mayor to Occupy Dallas: 'Safety first; freedom of speech second'

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by REBECCA LOPEZ

Bio | Email | Follow: @rlopezwfaa

WFAA

Posted on November 9, 2011 at 6:58 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 9 at 7:06 PM

DALLAS — Occupy Dallas protesters are settling in at their campsite behind City Hall. That is something the city doesn't want, and Mayor Mike Rawlings on Wednesday said the public safety will come first.

"They need to be safe. There are kids in that camp; that's not safe," Rawlings said. "When police get hurt, that's not safe. When citizens potentially get hurt, that's not safe. So, safety first;  freedom of speech second."

The city has issued a strong letter to occupiers, telling them they are in violation of an agreement signed between the two sides and have until Saturday to fix the stated problems or be removed.

"It's almost as if they kind of want us to be on edge and expect people to come raid us at any given time so we don't settle down or settle in," said an Occupy Dallas media representative who calls herself "V."

Tension is mounting as more people get involved, including the United Steelworkers Union. Local 9479 representative Lico Reyes told the occupiers to stand strong.

"You guys are very important to the movement for justice," he said.

But the city is warning them to remove semi-permanent structures like kitchens; haul off their trash; and stop using bathrooms in city facilities.

"I think it's just another tactic to sort of put fear and pressure on the people that are here," "V" said.

Now some occupiers feel under attack. On Tuesday night, one of the campers was assaulted with a beer bottle as he walked near the camp.

"I remember at the time getting dizzy and blood squirting out and I went down to the ground," the man said.

Occupy Dallas feels the situation is deteriorating between them and Dallas police, and the group's spokeswoman takes offense to the city's recent actions.

E-mail rlopez@wfaa.com

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