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When the local offshoot of Occupy Wall Street began a five-month encampment in Austin, Texas last fall, the Austin police assigned at least three undercover officers to infiltrate the group and gather information on potentially illegal actions.
According to the Austin Statesman, court documents and interviews show that the infiltrators “camped with other participants in the movement, marched in rallies and attended strategy meetings.”
They may also have gone further, acting as provocateurs to encourage the use of lockboxes or “sleeping dragons” — lengths of PVC pipe into which protestors insert their arms to make it harder for police to remove them during a demonstration.
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.
Police officials confirmed the use of undercover officers in the Occupy Austin movement but declined to comment on the officers' role in obtaining the lockbox.