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Council: No change to park regs, arrests of Occupy Tucson protesters

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Council: No change to park regs, arrests of Occupy Tucson protesters

300 cited thus far for staying in park past closing time

  • The Occupy Tucson camp was quiet after Tuesday's City Council meeting.
    Dylan Smith/TucsonSentinel.comThe Occupy Tucson camp was quiet after Tuesday's City Council meeting.

There will likely be more arrests of protesters at Occupy Tucson, as the City Council said police must continue to enforce closing times in parks.

In nearly two weeks of demonstrations, over 300 Occupy protesters have been cited for remaining in downtown parks past the 10:30 p.m. closing, TPD Chief Roberto Villaseñor told the council on Tuesday.

Enforcing the park closing time has cost the city about $36,000 in overtime for police, the chief said during the council's afternoon study session.

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.

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 Tuesday after holding a lengthy executive session to receive legal advice on the issue, 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.

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.

Only a handful of Occupy protesters and supporters were on hand for the afternoon meeting.

At Armory Park, the Occupiers have set up dozens of tents, a media center, kitchen area, and "free trade" exchanges.

Other demonstrators have set up at Veinte de Agosto Park, at Broadway and Church Avenue (also known as Pancho Villa Park), where they are move visible to traffic on Broadway and Congress Street.

Monday night, 11 protesters were cited at Armory Park, and a group of 12 protesters at Veinte de Agosto Park were cited, said Tucson Police Department spokesman Sgt. Matt Ronstadt. Three of those arrested at Veinte de Agosto Park had been cited earlier Monday night at Armory Park.

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.

Weekend arrests

32 protesters were arrested at Armory Park on Friday night, Ronstadt said.

On Saturday night, 22 were arrested at Armory Park, and 14 were cited at Veinte de Agosto Park. Five cited there were among those ticketed at Armory Park, he said.

Sunday night, 21were cited at Armory Park, along with six at Veinte de Agosto Park, including two who were arrested and field released earlier that night at Armory Park, Ronstadt said.

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