Dallas mayor says no immediate action on Occupy activists after judge OKs eviction

Story highlights

  • The mayor says no action will be taken Tuesday
  • City attorneys will meet with Occupy representatives Wednesday, the mayor says
  • Occupy protesters have camped on the grounds of City Hall for about a month
  • "We may have reached the end of the beginning," the lawyer says
A federal judge in Dallas dealt yet another blow to the Occupy movement Tuesday, denying the group's request for a temporary restraining order to prevent eviction from City Hall property.
U.S. District Judge Jane Boyle's decision meant City Hall was effectively free to forcibly evict the encampment members as of 4 p.m. CT (5 p.m. ET), when the current agreement between the protesters and City Hall expired.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings issued a statement saying no action would be taken Tuesday.
"City attorneys will discuss the next steps with this group's legal representation (Wednesday)," Rawlings said in the statement.
Occupy Dallas attorney Jonathan Winocour argued the city's position was unclear and left his clients with too many "ambiguities" regarding whether or not protestors were violating the terms of their agreement with the city. Winocour cited confusion over issues such as the definition of "permanent vs. semi-permanent" signage allowed on site, use of City Hall bathrooms, responsibility for trash disposal and other factors that he argued "should be clarified" before City Hall was allowed to evict his clients.
Winocour conceded he was "disappointed, but not unduly surprised... and not defeated" following Judge Boyle's ruling. He said the city's next steps were still unclear.
"They have not indicated there would be immediate evictions" Winocour said before Rawlings issued his statement on that point.
The mayor said that while the city has tried to balance First Amendment rights with "the city's responsibility to protect the activists and general public," the judge's ruling makes it clear that "the city has the authority to enforce the agreement in place."
"Public Safety and the health conditions at the encampment remain a paramount concern," Rawlings said in the statement.
Winocour said Occupy Dallas members have made an ongoing "good-faith" attempt in recent weeks to seek clarification of the agreement between protesters and officials from the city.
"The city rejected all of the overtures made to sit down with them for clarification," Winocour told CNN, while admitting he and some of his clients did meet with the city attorney's office last Thursday. Winocour said he believes agreement among all parties has "been difficult" citing the number of factions involved -- each with its own interest in city policy and enforcement -- such as the Dallas mayor's office, the city manager's office and Dallas police.
Winocour argued that Occupy Dallas has operated in accordance to the group's understanding of the initial agreement with the city for more than 40 days.
"We don't feel there was any breech" he said. But he added, "We may have reached the end of the beginning."
The group's attorney, who said he is handling the case pro bono, suggested the Occupy movement may need "to move to a different phase... a sentiment that is shared across the movement" nationwide.
"It may be time to figure out a mechanism to move forward to raise more awareness in political speech," Winocour said.
The Occupy Dallas encampment has been on the grounds of City Hall for the last month and has approximately 60 to 80 overnight residents, growing "bigger on weekends," Winocour said. Dallas police have arrested a couple dozen Occupy Dallas protestors in recent weeks following two separate protests outside several area banks.
The most recent incident occurred on Nov.ember 5 at a downtown Bank of America branch and resulted in the arrest of eight protestors on charges including assault and resisting arrest. Three Dallas police officers also suffered minor injuries during the protest.
Less than three days after the incident, the city of Dallas sent a letter to the Occupy group -- on November 8-- citing safety and health issues as primary concerns with the encampment and threatening to revoke the group's permit.
Winocour called the city's claims "a little bit of a distortion of what's going on," and said he plans to file a "motion for reconsideration" with the federal court.