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Occupy Tucson protesters swept from Armory Park

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Occupy Tucson protesters swept from Armory Park

Arrests made after demonstrators move to Veinte de Agosto Park

  • Tucson Police cleared Occupy Tucson protesters from Armory Park late Thursday night.
    Dylan Smith/TucsonSentinel.comTucson Police cleared Occupy Tucson protesters from Armory Park late Thursday night.
  • Tucson Police cleared Occupy Tucson protesters from Armory Park late Thursday night.
    Dylan Smith/TucsonSentinel.comTucson Police cleared Occupy Tucson protesters from Armory Park late Thursday night.

Police cleared about 20 Occupy Tucson protesters from Armory Park late Thursday night to make way for Saturday's Procession of Little Angels.

Protesters left the park without incident. After police announced that they were clearing Armory Park, an additional 50 Occupy Tucson protesters showed up to help clear tents and belongings from the park.

Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor told the small group of demonstrators that they would have to clear the park around 10:35 p.m.

"I appreciate the rapport and the communication that we have had," Villaseñor said, as he told demonstrator they would have to leave.

"We're going to move everything tonight," he said, as some protesters asked if they could wait until daylight to clear the 50-some tents set up in the park.

Although demonstrators were told they only had an hour to clear the park, police said they gave them longer to move belongings and clean the park, as they "were making significant progress," said Sgt. Matt Ronstadt, a TPD spokesman.

"There were about 15 to 20 people when we first got here," Villaseñor said later, as the park was being cleared. "They asked if they could bring other people in to help clean up the park, and, absolutely, we facilitated that."

"Technically, the violation is occurring at 10:30 at night," Villaseñor said when asked why police chose to evict the protesters during the night.

Police told demonstrators that Veinte de Agosto Park, between Broadway and Congress Street at Church Avenue, could serve as an alternative location, but that the 10:30 p.m. closing time would continue to be enforced there.

About 60 police officers surrounded the park, while more blocked streets in the area. The officers deployed for the park clearing were being paid overtime, said city spokesman Mike Graham.

Portable lights flooded the park with light.

The protesters moved their tents, cooking gear, bedding and other belongings onto trucks and into cars, taking about 2 1/2 hours to completely empty the park.

As some Occupiers moved gear, others walked the grounds of the park, picking up litter.

No arrests were made at Armory Park, and no citations were issued.

Other protesters were cleared from Jacome Plaza outside the Main Library, where a small group of Occupiers has been demonstrating.

"It's been an absolutely wonderful experience to see democracy and citizens coming together for a common goal," said protester Dave Croteau, a Green Party member. "We have rights and we need to speak loudly to the banks and the bureaucracies that have taken control of our government—and we want to take it back."

"This community has been loving and sharing their experience, their food, their wealth of knowledge and breadth of what they want for our country," Croteau said. and they've been doing it in a very peaceful and dynamic way."

This is a community that loves and cares for the people of this community, and they want to demonstrate in a peaceful way and a respectful way," he said.

"This, tonight was the first time we've been disrespected," Croteau said.

"Until tonight the police department had been very cooperative. They understood from the beginning what our intentions were."

"We would've been glad, and were cooperating with the planners of the event at the park, to move cooperatively, in a respectful way," he said.

Graham said that permits have been issued for Saturday events at both Armory Park and the library plaza, and that city Parks and Recreation crews will inspect the parks and perform any needed maintenance beginning early Friday morning.

The Procession of Little Angels, an event related to Tucson's All Souls Procession, is scheduled for Saturday at Armory Park. Library Story Town is scheduled for Saturday at Jacome Plaza, Graham said.

Move to Veinte de Agosto

Some protesters moved their tents to join an Occupy encampment at several blocks away at Veinte de Agosto Park, to continue their stand against what they consider inequity in the economy.

There are no permitted events scheduled at the park, sometimes known as Pancho Villa Park.

"We'll continue to cite and release at Veinte de Agosto Park," Graham said.

After a mountain of belongings—tents, backpacks, coolers, cooking equipment, filing cabinets, cardboard boxes and duffle bags—was moved to that park, about 40 police officers arrived on the scene about 1:15 a.m.

As about 50 demonstrators milled about, some setting up tents, others chanting on the sidewalk, police began issuing citations to those protesters who said they wouldn't leave the park.

Between 15-20 people queued up as a line of police swept through the park, shining flashlights in tents, asking people to leave.

Officers on the scene couldn't provide the number of arrests made, but said the only tickets issued were for remaining in the park, and that the move from Armory Park was peaceful.

Friday evening, a TPD press release said that 9 citations had been handed out the previous night.

Police would not let reporters use lights to videotape as the citations were handed out, and threatened to arrest reporters who remained in the park.

Police handed out 18 citations on Wednesday night, the press release said.

Nearly 480 arrests

There have been nearly 480 arrests since the protest began Oct. 15, according to police records.

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.

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