Occupy Austin must occupy somewhere else: Police clear City Hall overnight
Occupy Austin, a relatively peaceful protest group camping at City Hall since October, is now breaking city policy, and Austin police began the task of clearing out the campers on Friday night at 10 p.m.. According to news reports and Twitter posts at #occupyaustin, over a dozen police officers moved in and informed protestors they had to move out by 10:30 p.m. or face arrest.
Immediately the Twitter-verse went into action with protestors either asking for reinforcements:
"ALERT: EVICTION IMMINENT. Anyone on steps after 10:30 may be arrested. PLEASE MOBILIZE TO CITY HALL IMMEDIATELY."
or help moving:
"Anyone with a truck please come to city hall ASAP to help load our stuff up! Please hurry!"
Several live UStream and a Livestream feeds went up at 10:30 p.m. from City Hall and showed a quiet and relatively peaceful if loud eviction with protestors milling about, police standing by and downtown visitors watching. There were of course the hold-outs but most of the protestors chose to comply and take the protest somewhere else for the rest of the night.
At 10:45 p.m. police announced that the plaza was to be cleared and any stragglers would be arrested for criminal trespass.
The eviction was made possible by a change in city hall usage policy that took effect Feb. 2nd. The policy does not allow any overnight camping on the City Hall plaza and further bans use of the plaza between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. unless a public city meeting is going on.
At its height Occupy Austin included several hundred protestors at City Hall but that number had dwindled to just dozens in recent weeks. City officials estimate that cleaning plaza and maintaining a police presence over the last four months had cost Austin taxpayers over $800,000.
The waning of patience from the City follows that of others around the country. Early reports from the scene suggest several protestors were arrested but no violence or injury as of 11:30 p.m.
The bulk of those remaining began a march downtown. As of midnight they were occupying the party district along Sixth Street.