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Police accused of instigating, not just infiltrating Occupy Austin

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TWC News: Police accused of instigating, not just infiltrating Occupy Austin
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The actions of three undercover Austin police officers who infiltrated the Occupy Austin movement are being questioned in a Harris County Court.

A court transcript from a pre-trial hearing in Harris County suggests Austin police officer Shannon G. Dowell, while undercover as a member of Occupy Austin, obtained the materials for, constructed and distributed lockboxes to the Austin-based protesters. Lockboxes are devices made of PVC, chain and padlocks.

In early December, demonstrators with the Occupy Austin movement made a trip to Houston to take part in shutting down Port Houston. Some used the lockboxes to make it more difficult for officers to separate and arrest them.

The protesters at Port Houston were arrested. Those using lockboxes were charged with state jail felonies for their use of the devices, punishable by a sentence of up to two years in state jail.

Greg Gladden is the attorney representing Ronnie Garza, one of the protesters arrested and charged at Port Houston. Gladden subpoenaed Officer Dowell to testify at a pre-trial hearing on Monday.

The court transcript shows Dowell worked with two other undercover officers whose identities are still unknown. Judge Joan Campbell ordered them to be revealed, or the case could be dismissed.

Dowell testified he had a flash drive containing photos of him distributing the lockboxes to protesters, but lost the drive “en route” to the courthouse, saying it likely fell out of his pocket.

Judge Campbell said the officer should have come prepared, and ordered that all emails, text messages and notes regarding the Occupy movement in Austin be restored and revealed at a hearing next Wednesday.

At a Friday press conference, Assistant Police Chief Sean Mannix confirmed that Austin police worked undercover in Occupy Austin. Their primary mission was to “protect the free speech activities of those engaged in lawful protest.”

Assistant Chief Mannix did not answer questions, telling reporters the criminal investigation is ongoing.

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