Police have been caught setting up occupy wall street protesters last year in order to prosecute them more harshly under the law.
In December of last year, Occupy Houston made headlines as they blocked the entrance to the Port of Houston by forming a human chain using pvc pipes to lock their arms together in "dragon sleeves." This tactic didn't stop the Houston police from arresting them, however, and instead of being charged with simple misdemeanors, the use of those pipes -- considered "criminal instruments" -- the group face felony charges.
Austin Police Officer Shannon Dowell was one of three undercover APD officers within Occupy Austin, the same group that ended up in the Port of Houston. The APF officers designed and built those "dragon sleeves" that got the protesters in so much trouble.
Officer Dowell apparently had been bragging about how he set up the occupiers, and someone who overheard him tipped off the attorney for one of the protesters.
Occupy Austin members claim Dowell specifically encouraged them to ramp up their protest efforts.
"This man would attend our meetings, pull me aside and say, we need to do more aggressive actions," Dave Cortez said.
Those allegations infuriated the presiding Harris County judge. She said she was floored by the officers' involvement.
"It was determined that plain-clothes officers blending in was necessary for the safety of the participants and the community," Minnix said.
The Occupy Houston protesters are hoping to have charges dropped because of the role of the undercover officers.
Another court hearing is scheduled for later this month.