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54 arrests made at Occupy Tucson over weekend
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54 arrests made at Occupy Tucson over weekend

Over 420 arrests since protest began

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

Tucson police arrested 54 Occupy Tucson demonstrators over the weekend, a spokeswoman said. Protesters continued to receive citations at three downtown locations

Friday night, 22 citations were handed out. 17 protesters at Armory Park and 4 at Veinte de Agosto Park were arrested and field released for remaining in the parks past the 13:30 p.m. closing time. One demonstrator was cited for camping on the property of the Main Library, 101 N. Stone Ave., said TPD's Sgt. Maria Hawke.

Tickets were handed out simultaneously at the three locations, from about 10:35 to 11:30 p.m., Hawke said. On-duty police handled the arrests and ticketing, she said.

Saturday, 17 were arrested: 8 at Armory Park, 6 at Veinte de Agosto, and 3 at the Main Library. The citations were handed out in about 45 minutes, beginning at 10:30 p.m., Hawke said. In addition to three on-duty officers, five policemen received overtime pay during Saturday's enforcement.

Sunday, 15 were cited: 9 at Armory Park, 4 at Veinte de Agosto, and 2 at the Main Library. A sergeant and seven officers were paid overtime to conduct the arrests, which took about 45 minutes, Hawke said.

There have been over 420 arrests since the protest began Oct. 15, police records 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 10:30 p.m. Each night, police allow those who wish to leave to do so before making arrests and writing tickets.

Last week, the City Council told police and Parks and  Recreation Department staff to continue to enforce the closing time.

After meeting in a lengthy executive session to hear legal advice, the council discussed Occupy Tucson at its Tuesday afternoon study session.

Police were told to continue to arrest, cite, and field release demonstrators.

Enforcing the park closing time has cost the city about $36,000 in overtime for police, TPD Chief Roberto Villaseñor told the council. Over 300 had been arrested up to that time, he said.

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.

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.

Last Wednesday, the first group of protesters had their court dates moved to Nov. 17.

At the call to the audience at a City Council meeting two weeks ago, 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 last Tuesday, 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.

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