53 cited at Occupy Tucson demonstration
Tucson police arrested 53 Occupy Tucson demonstrators who refused to vacate downtown's Armory Park after closing time Saturday night, a spokesman said.
After a day protesting economic imbalance, about 150 demonstrators remained in the park at the 10:30 p.m. closing time, said TPD's Sgt. Matt Ronstadt. 53 who declined to leave were cited for breaking a city law and released at the scene, he said. Citations for violating Tucson City Code 21-3(7)(3) were given beginning at 11:15 p.m., he said
At its height Saturday afternoon, the Occupy Tucson demonstration numbered about 500, according to counts by reporters and police. The group conducted several marches through downtown during the day, which police said were "organized and responsible."
From a Sunday news release by Ronstadt:
On October 15, 2011, a group of citizens demonstrating in support of the Occupy Tucson movement began to gather at Armory Park, located at 221 South 6th Avenue. Demonstrators gathered throughout the day, and the group was estimated to number approximately 500 at the height of the event. Groups of demonstrators periodically embarked on marches throughout the downtown area. These were conducted in an organized and responsible fashion, with demonstrators obeying State and local laws. At 10:30 p.m., when the Armory Park officially closed for the day, the crowd was estimated to number approximately 150 participants.
On October 12, 2011, the Tucson Police Department and executives and staff members from Parks and Recreation, the City Prosecutors Office, and other city departments met with sub- group organizers of the Occupy Tucson event. This meeting was held to establish points of contact with stakeholders, share information about the event, and to communicate to the group important information regarding regulations governing usage of the park. The organizers indicated that the group did not intend to comply with regulations regarding obtaining permits or paying appropriate fees for their planned usage of the park. They also communicated their intent to conduct a peaceful event.
During the event on October 15, 2011, the Tucson Police Department remained in frequent contact with members of the protest who were on site at the demonstration location. The group was informed that participants who chose to remain in the park after the posted closing time of 10:30 p.m. would be subject to arrest and criminal prosecution if enforcement action were taken. The Tucson Police Department conveyed that our goal was to preserve the constitutionally protected rights of the demonstrators, while upholding applicable State and local laws and ensuring public safety. Throughout these contacts, the demonstrators as a whole remained cooperative and continued to communicate their intent to hold a peaceful event, free from physical confrontation with police.
As the evening progressed and the 10:30 p.m. park closing time approached, a series of discussions occurred between the Tucson Police Department and sub-group leaders regarding the demonstrators' intent to willfully violate Tucson City Code 21-3(7)(3) by remaining in the park after the posted closing time. The Tucson Police Department informed General Assembly members (all demonstrators present) and their on-site legal advisors that enforcement of the City Code would occur, and that anyone refusing to leave the park after closing would be issued a criminal citation, and field-released at the scene. Many protestors chose to leave the park at this time.
Enforcement of Tucson City Code began at approximately 11:15 p.m., when Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor personally addressed the remaining demonstrators and explained the Department's intended actions. Chief Villaseñor expressed his appreciation for the cooperative nature of the group, explained that anyone could leave the park at any time prior to receiving a citation, and fielded several questions from demonstrators. At approximately 11:30 p.m., officers began to issue citations after informing each individual that they were in violation of Tucson City Code and subject to arrest, and affording them the opportunity to voluntarily comply by leaving the park. Most of the arrests occurred after demonstrators organized themselves into groups that presented themselves to officers and requested to receive a citation. Officers designated as videographers filmed each arrest to assist with identification of the arrestees in court, and to preserve the nature of the contact for evidentiary purposes. Enforcement actions concluded at approximately 1:30 a.m. on October 16, 2011 when officers left the park.
A total of 53 demonstrators were arrested for violation of Tucson City Code 21-3(7)(3) - Remaining in City Park After Hours. All of the arrests were in the form of a criminal citation and field-release, and no force was used during the course of the event.
Protesters had originally planned to demonstrate at Veinte de Agosto Park, at the corner of Broadway and Church Avenue, but moved to not interfere with the Tucson Meet Yourself festival being held this weekend.
Occupy Tucson organizers did not request a permit to hold an event at Armory Park from the Tucson Parks and Recreation Department.