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Posted Dec 26, 2011, 1:28 pm
Dear Councilman Kozachik and Chief Villaseñor,
Recent communications from the Ward 6 Council Office and the Tucson Police Department have pointed to incidents of crime at the Occupy Tucson encampment at Veinte de Agosto Park as justification to evict protesters.
But TPD's own statistics show that during the 46 days of the Occupation at Veinte de Agosto, the downtown crime rate was 20 percent lower as compared to the 46 days before Occupy Tucson established its encampments.
Yes, gentlemen, you're hearing this right: downtown was safer with Occupy Tucson present. Twenty percent safer. This despite the fact that the normally deserted park was full of people. And that many of those people were struggling with mental illness and addiction.
The prevailing narrative about Occupy Tucson is that we haven't accomplished anything. Yet in our 46 days at Veinte de Agosto, we fed and sheltered dozens of our most vulnerable fellow citizens, raised awareness around global and local economic injustice, disrupted home foreclosure auctions, secured three supportive votes from city councilmembers, proudly racked up the Occupy movement's second-highest civil disobedience arrest rate in the country (New York being at the top), and left the park cleaner than we found it. Astonishingly, as we were doing all this work, the crime rate in the neighborhood went down.
Wow. Must have been our beloved Peacekeepers from Veterans for Peace patrolling our perimeter, as well as dozens of eyes looking out for one another. Looks like Occupy Tucson set up a pretty good neighborhood watch.
Councilman Kozachik and Chief Villaseñor, how dare you use the threat of public endangerment against us? How dare you peddle fear to the public as justification to clear out a peaceful protest?
How dare you continue to inject the words "child abuse" and "child molestation" into your newsletters, media interviews and press releases? Steve, your newsletter of December 14 reported the false information that "there was a child molestation inside one of the tents at Occupy Tucson." The clarification you issued a week later was weak and self-serving, and failed to correct the biggest falsehood of all: the implication that our presence was somehow responsible.
The truth is that we rescued those girls. They had been drinking—one of them was too drunk to walk—and none of us had seen these men before. Before the men disappeared, they admitted to us it was they who had bought the girls alcohol. One of them was in his late forties.
What really happened that night, Councilman Kozachik and Chief Villaseñor, is that we kept those girls warm and safe and called their parents, and prevented what might have been the worst experience of their young lives. Our encampment—that village it takes to raise a child—was there when those girls needed us.
Councilman Kozachik, your clarification also says "there were two incidents, not one," and that the other incident was "an ongoing TPD investigation into 'child abuse' that involves one of the people associated with Occupy Tucson." Chief Villaseñor, you've cited this incident to the press as well.
Seriously, guys? An investigation that involves one of the people associated with Occupy Tucson? Let's assume for a moment you're talking about one of our active organizers rather than, say, one of our 8,000 Facebook supporters or the hundreds of community members who brought us food and other supplies over the course of our Occupation of the parks. There are roughly 200 active organizers, I'd say — people who have participated in working groups, volunteered in the kitchen, served as Peacekepers and regularly attended our General Assemblies. So let me ask you this: what if we took a random sample of 200 people "associated with TPD" or "associated with Ward 6." Do you suppose that among those people there might also be an ongoing investigation or two of child abuse? And how quickly would you respond with indignation that one bad apple was being used to besmirch the whole institution?
Chief, you hid behind the "ongoing investigation" excuse to decline further comment on the incident. Did the alleged incident even occur at Veinte de Agosto, or is this "ongoing investigation" something that happened before this person came to Occupy? It's an abuse of your authority to drop the "child abuse" bomb into the public discourse and let it sit there, unexplained, for public speculation.
As a survivor of child molestation, a girl for whom nobody intervened, I am so offended by your repeated suggestions that Occupy Tucson's presence led to harm against children. It is underhanded and shameful of you both to try to use child abuse against us politically. We are Occupy Tucson, and this village isn't going anywhere.
Shannon Cain is a fiction writer and a writing coach. Her collection of short stories, The Necessity of Certain Behaviors, was awarded the Drue Heinz Literature Prize for 2011.