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Council deadlocks on Occupy Tucson free speech zone

A move to create a free speech zone in Veinte de Agosto Park, and cease ticketing Occupy Tucson demonstrators, failed as the Tucson City Council deadlocked on a 3-3 vote.

A motion by West Side Democrat Regina Romero didn't pass during the council's Tuesday afternoon study session, with only council members Karin Ulich and Richard Fimbres joining her. Paul Cunningham, Shirley Scott and Steve Kozachik voted against the move.

At Tuesday's afternoon study session, Romero called on the City Council to order that:

  • Veinte de Agosto Park be named a "free speech zone."
  • City of Tucson Parks and Recreation staff waive permitting fees and curfews for Occupy Tucson protesters at Veinte de Agosto Park.
  • Occupy Tucson participants respect any and all traditional and permitted events that are taking place in City of Tucson parks.

Cunningham and Scott expressed concerns about scheduling,permitting and insurance issues with a free speech area.

Cunningham offered an alternative motion, that would have led to further discussion of a free speech zone not specifically in Veinte de Agosto Park, but it failed to receive a second from the rest of the council.

Mayor Bob Walkup was absent, creating the possibility of a 3-3 tie on Romero's motion.

Romero also proposed that the city move some of its funds from national banks—a major target of the nationwide Occupy protests—to local credit unions.

City Attorney Mike Rankin said that might be blocked by state law, which limits where municipalities can deposit their funds.

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Tucson police cited 5 protesters overnight Monday, and 41 over the long weekend for refusing to leave the downtown park, police said..

There have been over 575 arrests since the protest began Oct. 15, police records show. Monday, a city magistrate said he would order protesters with three or more arrests to not return to the park.

Last month, after a lengthy discussion in executive session, the council declined to waive the parks permitting rules or closing times.

City Attorney Mike Rankin told council members Oct. 25 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.

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 closing time. Each night, police allow those who wish to leave to do so before making arrests and writing tickets.

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.

City Magistrate Anthony Riojas ruled Monday that he will order demonstrators with three or more citations to not return to the park after closing time. Riojas said he will begin reviewing cases for multiple tickets beginning Friday. Lawyers for the protesters said they would appeal the move.

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3 comments on this story

Nov 16, 2011, 10:06 am
-0 +0

@Mary DeCamp

First off, congratulations on a successful mayoral campaign. Oh, wait a minute…

Believe it or not, I followed part of your campaign. You’re something of a dichotomy. You would make a strong, excellent point, and then immediately follow it up with a statement that demonstrated that you’re a complete crackpot. Bipolar campaigning isn’t a recipe for success, not even for an idiotic, comatose, brain-dead electorate like Tucson is.

So, your ilk loves to hurl the same tired, baseless insults and buzz-words toward those that don’t drink your kool-aid…hateful, vitriol, I’m surprised you didn’t work “uncivil” in there somewhere. People like you hijacked those words and redefined them to where I have no idea what they really mean anymore. So, you’ll forgive me if I don’t take them seriously.

The flea party has absolutely zero in common with our founding fathers. The good men and women that started this country had a stated, measurable objective, and specific plans on how to achieve that objective. They had great leadership. The flea party has none of these things.

How is this economy working out for me? Pretty well, actually. When times were allegedly good, I couldn’t find a job befitting my skills to save my life. Now the media tells me that times are bad, yet I have a great job, making a fair wage, and I get treated with respect where I work. I am not what you refer to as the 1%. I am a honest, hard-working man who is part of the 53% that actually pay my taxes. How many flea-partiers can say that?

Do YOU live in CD8? Did you vote for Giffords in the last mid-term elections?

Another flea partier was also bashing me as one of the “1%”, and using your same, tired buzz-words. I reasoned with him, trying to make him understand that his anger was justified but misdirected, and it must have worked because I haven’t heard anything from him sense. Rather than repeat myself or copy-and-paste the whole thing, I’ll just link to it. Click the following, then look at the fifth and sixth posts down.


Nov 16, 2011, 7:19 am
-0 +0

Wow, such hatred, Bret!  I hope that vitriol doesn’t eat you from within, like acid destroys the vessel it occupies.

The Occupy Tucson movement is in the true spirit of the Revolutionaries who founded this country.  When the government becomes represive and non-representative it is the people’s obligation to stand in opposition.  Isn’t that what the Tea Party thinks?  Yet you call the Occupiers the “flea party”?

How is this economy working for you and your loved ones?  Got a cushy retirement?  Got 8 or 9 homes, like Senator McCain?  The inequity is what we in the Occupy Movement are trying to fix.  Hatin’ on us is hatin’ on the bottom 99% and supporting the top 1% who keep their boot on our throats.

Nov 15, 2011, 6:38 pm
-1 +3

I have no idea exactly what a ReHEEEna is. I seriously think she pronounces her name that way just to call attention to herself.

Anyway, correct decision regarding the flea party. As I opined in a previous post, the same rules gotta apply to everyone. One gets a permit, everyone gets a permit. One gets a free ride, everyone gets a free ride. Playing favorites is a sixth amendment violation, and would have opened up the city to all sorts of justified lawsuits.

It’s a good thing Braindead Bob was negligent in his duties. This idiotic plan sounds like the thing he would go for…

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Dylan Smith/TucsonSentinel.com

Councilwoman Regina Romero discusses her push to create a free speech zone at Tuesday's afternoon study session.