It seemed a little bogus when Occupy Houston protesters got hit with felony charges for their typical blocking of a street during a Port of Houston event earlier this month and, indeed, the serious charges were quickly dropped.
Any celebration has been short-lived, though: A grand jury has now reinstated the felony cases, because the protesters used PVC pipe while taking their stand.
That means, according to the indictment, that they used "a criminal instrument" and therefore the charges get upped.
Protesters stick their arms in the pipe to make it harder to be handcuffed.
Occupy Houston says the tough charges are a sign that their relationship with authorities is changing.
Occupy Houston recognizes the aggressive response to the action at the Port of Houston as an effort to intimidate and discourage future expressions of political speech in the city. Since early October, Occupy participants and the HPD had enjoyed a somewhat positive relationship relative to the other violent crackdowns on occupations seen in cities such as New York and Oakland.
However, Occupy Houston has been highly alarmed and deeply critical of the recent behavior of local police, including the placement of tape over the names of officers on uniforms and the use of a large tent to conceal the actions of police from media coverage during the arrest of protesters at the port. As strong advocates for accountability and transparency of government and public officials, Occupy Houston believes these actions are a clear violation
The group will hold protests about the events later today.
"Occupy Houston also calls on Harris County, the City of Houston and the Houston Police Department to cease their campaign to suppress the free speech of local citizens through fear and intimidation tactics, legal and otherwise," the group said.
As we reported earlier, HPD said it gave verbal reprimands to cops who taped over their badge numbers during the port protest, but would not say how many or release their names.