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Posted Oct 28, 2011, 12:23 pm
Tucson police arrested 18 Occupy Tucson demonstrators overnight, as the protest spread to a third park at downtown's Main Library.
After they refused to leave city parks at the 10:30 p.m. closing time, officers cited and released 18 protesters Thursday night, said TPD spokeswoman Sgt. Maria Hawke.
At downtown's Armory Park, the main Occupy encampment, 12 were arrested. Two were cited at Veinte de Agosto Park (also known as Pancho Villa Park), and four at Library Park, 101 N. Stone Ave.
There have been nearly 370 arrests since the protest began Oct. 15, police records said.
Occupy Tucson protesters have been allowed to remain in the parks overnight after being cited for the misdemeanor offense of being in a park after 10:30 p.m. Each night, police allow those who wish to leave to do so before making arrests and writing tickets.
Wednesday night, 20 demonstrators were cited and released—12 at Armory Park and 8 at Veinte de Agosto Park.
Tuesday, 28 were arrested at Armory Park, and 8 at Veinte de Agosto Park. Monday, 11 protesters were arrested at Armory Park, and 12 at Veinte de Agosto Park, TPD Sgt. Matt Ronstadt said. Three were cited at both parks.
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After meeting in a lengthy executive session to hear legal advice, the council discussed Occupy Tucson at its afternoon study session.
Police were told to continue to arrest, cite, and field release demonstrators.
Enforcing the park closing time has cost the city about $36,000 in overtime for police, TPD Chief Roberto Villaseñor told the council. Over 300 had been arrested up to that time, he said.
But, by releasing protesters after giving them a ticket, instead of booking them into the county jail, the city has saved about $71,000, he said. The county charges the city about $225 for a first-day arrestee. The city has also saved on transportation costs, and is shifting schedules to account for the ongoing enforcement effort, Villaseñor said.
The protesters face a maximum $1,000 fine for violating the park closing rules, a misdemeanor, but many of those arrested for trespassing at unrelated Tucson demonstrations in the past have seen their charges dismissed.
Wednesday, the first group of protesters had their court dates moved to Nov. 17.
At the call to the audience at last week's City Council meeting, some protesters asked the city to waive enforcing the ordinance against remaining in the park after it's 10:30 p.m. closure.
Council members declined to do so, citing concerns about unequal treatment of different groups.
City Attorney Mike Rankin told council members that content-neutral restrictions on the time and place citizens may assemble are constitutional. Waiving the rules for Occupy protesters would open the city to claims by other groups, he said.
The city's enforcement effort has been "respectful and dignified," interim City Manager Richard Miranda told the council.
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The city requires permits and liability insurance for events in municipal parks. Occupy Tucson organizers have declined to obtain a city permit or insurance coverage.
If demonstrators persist, the Occupation will conflict with other events who have paid for permits at Armory Park, including the Nov. 5 Procession of Little Angels, and El Tour de Tucson the weekend of Nov. 19.