(Reuters) - More than a dozen people were arrested on Thursday morning in Dallas when police on horseback and in riot gear evicted Occupy Dallas protesters from a site near City Hall where they have been camping for the past six weeks.
There was no violence. Dallas city officials put the number of people arrested at 18, while Occupy Dallas officials said 17 were arrested.
Late Wednesday, city officials notified the protesters that they had “breached” their agreement to use city-owned property, saying they had failed to properly collect and remove trash from the campsite, and that some had been carrying weapons and cooking on the property.
“Generally, overnight camping and sleeping in public are not allowed on public property and are not associated with First Amendment rights,” the City of Dallas said in a statement distributed to reporters.
“Criminal offenses have occurred, and compounding the criminal offenses there have been health concerns materializing at the encampment in regards to the buildup of trash and inadequate sanitary conditions, which, if allowed to continue, could have led to serious health issues for participants.”
News video of the eviction showed several dozen police officers taking down tents and removing protesters who were sitting on the ground singing.
Occupy Dallas spokesman Michael Prestonise said the eviction was uncalled for and questioned the police manpower used for the operation, which began shortly after midnight and lasted for about 45 minutes.
“We were given no warning other than the sound of sirens coming down the street,” Prestonise told Reuters on Thursday. “The city allocated a ridiculous amount of resources to make these arrests. There were more police on horseback than there were people who were arrested.”
He said the campsite was vacant Thursday morning.
Prestonise said protesters have been discussing transferring their energy into political and social action.
“We will be marching, we will be protesting, this is clearly not the end of the Occupy movement,” he said. “This is not going to stop us.”
The Occupy movement mainly centers around the view that there is too much economic inequality in the United States, and that corporations and the rich have too much power.
Reporting by Jim Forsyth; Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Jerry Norton