Tony Plohetski and Eric Dexheimer
September 2, 2012
Soon after Occupy Austin protesters began their months-long demonstration at City Hall last fall, Austin police officials assigned at least three undercover officers to infiltrate the group to gather intelligence on any plans that might break the law.
The officers camped with other participants in the movement, marched in rallies and attended strategy meetings with Occupy Austin members.
The officers also may have crossed a fine line in undercover police work: They helped plan and manufacture devices – often called “lockboxes” – that allowed Occupy members to tie themselves together during a protest in Houston, according to interviews and court records. The use of the devices, which makes it harder for police to break up human chains, resulted in Houston police filing felony charges against seven protesters who had attempted to block a port entrance in Houston on Dec. 12.
The revelations include behind-the-scenes details of the lengths the Police Department went to in its efforts to monitor and control the Occupy Austin movement, which maintained a presence at City Hall for nearly five months. According to court documents, police brass up to and including Chief Art Acevedo approved the infiltration operation.