Back in December of 2011, six members of Occupy Austin were arrested and charged with felonies for using PVC pipe and chains during a protest at the Port of Houston. It turned out that the people who built the restraints and encouraged the Occupiers to use them were Austin police officers undercover as members of the Occupy movement. Now, Harris County prosecutors have dropped the felony charges and the defendants have instead plead guilty to misdemeanors. Greg Gladden represented Ronnie Garza, one of the protesters originally charged with a felony.
"Basically, it became an embarrassment. I think the new administration in the Harris County DA's Office probably had some input in what this particular prosecutor decided to do with these cases. In the meantime, we were able to ferret out at least three Austin police officers that had been active members in Occupy Austin, steering them in the wrong direction whenever they could."
All the defendants agreed to sentences that included time-served. Gladden says the fight to reduce the charges was worth it.
"Dissent in this country has a patriotic long-standing history. You know, this nation was founded on dissent and the First Amendment protects people's rights to go out and petition the government and speak and assemble and everything these police officers were being paid to do infringed on those rights."
Gladden says he suspects there are still undercover officers posing as Occupy Austin protesters. Last year, the Houston Police Department denied knowing anything about the APD's involvement in the Port protest.