AUSTIN, TEXAS -Two Occupy Austin protesters who were banned from returning to City Hall after they were arrested in October are now suing the city.
Occupy Austin protesters Rudy Sanchez and Kris Sleeman have filed a federal lawsuit against the city, claiming Austin’s policy to ban protesters from City Hall is unconstitutional. They are being aided by The Texas Civil Rights Project.
In an effort to maintain order at City Hall Plaza, the city started banning disruptive people from the property. The majority of protesters that have been banned by the city are those that were arrested by police. To date, nearly 90 Occupy Austin protesters have been arrested. The city has banned 95 people.
The plaintiffs claim the policy violates their First Amendment rights. The ban only pertains to City Hall property and does not prevent the protesters from voicing their opinions anywhere else in Austin.
The plaintiff’s attorney Jim Harrington told KUT, “It’s really ironic, in a city that prides itself, supposedly, on its free-speech activities, we end up seeing them ban people from the free speech plaza. It’s just shameful, I think, that this is going on.”
The lawsuit is asking the court to stop the city from banning people from City Hall Plaza.
If the protesters prevail in their lawsuit, everyone who has been arrested during the protests would be allowed to return. This would include protester Jarod Smith, who was arrested on November 15 at City Hall after he allegedly took his clothes off and began masturbating in front of a 16-year old girl.
Austin has been spared the rapes, murders, vandalism and other violent crimes that have been seen at many other Occupy Wall Street protests around the country.
However, the city has spent over $100,000 dollars in police overtime in order to watch over the protesters. Nearly 50 protesters have been arrested for refusing to temporarily move so cleaning crews could pressure wash the Plaza.