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Occupy Tucson ordered out of DeAnza Park

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Occupy Tucson ordered out of DeAnza Park

  • Occupy Tucson protesters set up camp on an easement just outside DeAnza Park on Feb. 2.
    Will Seberger/TucsonSentinel.comOccupy Tucson protesters set up camp on an easement just outside DeAnza Park on Feb. 2.

Occupy Tucson campers have been told by Tucson Police to vacate DeAnza Park by Thursday. City officials cited increasing disturbances and calls to police for the move. Occupiers were to meet Wednesday evening to plan their response.

Wednesday, police informed the campers in the park at Speedway and Stone Avenue that they must leave the park by Thursday.

There have been 20-some tents set up in an easement area next to the park since the beginning of the month.

The Occupiers are being pushed out because of "a dramatic increase in calls for service in the De Anza Park area since the encampment began," said city spokeswoman Nicole Ewing-Gavin.

"Violence has occurred in the encampment resulting in at least four orders of protection on campers by other campers. In addition, many complaints have been received from surrounding businesses and residents," she said in a press release.

The campers at the park were to meet at 5 p.m. to discuss their next move, with an Occupy General Assembly scheduled for 7 p.m., said one of the encampment's organizers, Dave Croteau.

Occupy Tucson members set up tents on a city-owned easement on the west side of the park on Feb. 2 after they were moved from the sidewalk next to downtown's Veinte de Agosto Park.

A Feb. 24 memo from TPD Chief Roberto Villaseñor to City Manager Richard Miranda outlined a 52 percent increase this month in police calls to the area over last February.

In 2011, the area within 1,000 feet of the park had 59 calls, jumping to 90 in February 2012, he said.

"The largest increase was in disturbance calls, going from 0 in 2011 to 24 in 2012," he said.

In addition to the restraining orders, there have been fights among Occupiers, including on that resulted in a broken nose, Villaseñor said.

Other complaints have included shoplifting at a nearby Circle K, and use of a neighboring hotel's pool for bathing.

Ewing-Gavin said City Attorney Mike Rankin determined that the Occupiers were violating city and state laws, but did not cite any statutes.

Rankin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Tucson has the longest-running uninterrupted anti-corporate protest in the nation, Croteau said earlier this month.

Occupy Tucson began Oct. 15 when demonstrators set up tents in Armory Park on South 6th Avenue. Police evicted them from that park in November.

They then moved to downtown's Veinte de Agosto (also known as Pancho Villa Park).

Although protesters were evicted from Veinte de Agosto in late December, they continued their protest on the sidewalk until the early February move north to DeAnza, and occupied the downtown park during daylight, Croteau said at the time.

Rather than set up their tents in DeAnza, they pitched them on a city-owned easement next to it, which is thus not covered by the park curfew law.

When the city added a right-turn lane on North Stone Avenue at Speedway about a decade ago, the stone wall marking the western edge of DeAnza Park was moved, leaving a 20-foot stretch between the roadway and the park boundary.

Many of the Occupy Tucson protesters are more interested in community outreach and getting across their message of social change, rather than continuing to rack up citations for being in parks overnight, Croteau said.

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