Saturday, September 1, 2012

Protecting and serving the interests of the 1%

Shannon Powell is a narcotics detective with the Austin Police Department.

He's also a rat. An agent provacateur, if you will.

But maybe you just know him as Butch.

You know Butch. He's that guy who came down to Austin to protest at the Port of Houston back in December. He's the one who suggested the protesters use a device known as a sleeping dragon to link their arms together to block the main entrance into the Port of Houston.

Yeah, that Butch.

And now Detective Powell has found himself in the crosshairs of Judge Joan Campbell of Harris County's 248th District Court where seven protesters find themselves charged with the felony offense of unlawful use of a criminal instrument.

The charges were initially dismissed by Judge Campbell for lack of probable cause.  Not to be deterred, the Harris County District Attorney's Office somehow convinced a grand jury to indict the protesters. I don't know if they had to threaten them, twist their arms or just say "please."

Then in February an anonymous e-mail announced that Butch was actually an undercover officer who had left the Occupy Austin encampment on the day the police evicted the protesters. Butch had purchased, built and delivered the sleeping dragons to protesters in Austin who were traveling down to Austin to participate in the Occupy the Port protest.

When subpoenaed to appear before Judge Campbell, Mr. Powell claimed to have lost most of the digital material about his involvement with the Occupy protesters. Oops.

It is clear that the Austin Police Department was watching Occupy Austin from inside and out. For those in the progressive community, such actions aren't shocking or unexpected. However, having that same undercover officer design and deliver the devices that would subject protesters to felony charges goes above and beyond.

Houston criminal defense attorney, and National Lawyers Guild member, Greg Gladden must be commended for the work he did on this case. It is because of his tireless effort that Mr. Powell has been thrust into the spotlight. It is because of his work that the public can see just what it is that the police are really up to.

Forget this protect and serve bullshit. The police have been used to crush dissent in this country for decades. The police have long been the paid lackeys of the corporate bosses and have not hesitated in the past to aim their weapons at striking workers. The police were the day-to-day enforcers of Jim Crow in the south. And now we find them ankle deep in the Occupy movement.

From day one the powers that be have done their best to marginalize the Occupy movement. They have tried to portray them as college kids longing for a movement to call their own. They have called the Occupy movement harmless and nothing more than a momentary distraction.

But, if the Occupy movement were no threat to them, why would we see undercover officers and agents imbed themselves inside the groups in order to sabotage them? Why would the Austin Police Department have Mr. Powell designing and building sleeping dragons to be used in a protest in Houston? Why would the Houston Police Department have informers inside the Houston organization feeding them information and gossip?

And they damn near got away with it.

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