Currently the debacle that has peaceful protesters banging their heads against the
wall in Tucson is the Tucson Polices denial of Tucson City Code 11-36.2(b)4. It
Section 11-36.2. Prohibited conduct; exceptions.
(a) No person shall sit or lie down upon a public sidewalk or upon a blanket, chair,
stool, or any other object placed upon a public sidewalk or median during the hours
between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. in the following zones:
Except a person:
(4) Who is exercising First Amendment rights protected by the United States
Constitution, including free exercise of religion, speech and assembly; provided,
however, that the person sitting or lying on the public sidewalk remains at least
eight (8) feet from any doorway or business entrance, leaves open a five (5) foot
path and does not otherwise block or impede pedestrian traffic.
In the past two months the Tucson Police Department has completely ignored this code
and used Tucson City Code 16-35 (No person shall obstruct any public sidewalk,
street or alley in the city by placing, maintaining or allowing to remain thereon
any item or thing that prevents full, free and unobstructed public use in any
manner, except as otherwise specifically permitted by law.) to arrest and remove
people from the sidewalk.
Being a person that has had my first and fourteenth amendment rights violated by the
actions of the Tucson Police Department obviously I hold a bias, but even the most
cop friendly people can see the obvious violation of our Federal, State, and Local
laws. This will seem even more obvious when I have the other twenty criminal
violations I hold dismissed, but that will not regain our rights.
I will continue to occupy the front-line putting my mental, emotional, and physical
safety at risk to expose the injustices in our city, state, and country. It will be
an uphill battle and I may not accomplish a thing. But, it feels great to have a
purpose, and if I do not do something now than when should I?
It has been a long strenuous battle for Occupy Tucson with the City of Tucson to establish a hub on public land in order to practice freedom of speech and assembly. What started off as a series of ticket writing sessions and named ticket time stacked up to over eight hundred tickets in a matter of three months, became an unquestionable win from a group of people that held strong to their rights and belief that one person can make a difference.
Occupy Tucson began as a handful of people (Sky Napier, Michael Migliore, Jon McLane, Craig Barber) developing a Facebook page and picking a place to host the first Occupy Tucson General Assembly. There were two General Assembly meetings, hosting over three hundred people combined, to decide to commence a twenty four hour on-going occupation (encampment) on Oct. 15th, 2011 at Armory Park. The first day at Armory Park there were over twelve hundred people that participated in the occupation. That evening the Chief of Police Villasenor went to Armory Park and let everyone in attendance know that they would be arrested if they were in the park after 10:30pm. Several left upon receiving that news. But, there were fifty individuals that decided to continue the encampment, and lined up to be arrested and released with a $1,000 citation.
On Oct. 28th, 2011 Occupy Tucson established 2 other occupation sites; Veinte De Agosto Park, and Joel Valdez Library Grounds. The encampment continued at Armory Park until Nov. 4th 2011, when the Tucson Police Department told Occupy Tucson that anyone or anything found in Armory or Library park would be arrested and detained. Upon receiving that news Occupy Tucson had Armory Park completely cleared and cleaned within two hours. The twenty four hour encampment continued, even under stressful situations, and continued to feed people by the thousands all while educating the community on the flaws in our system.
Occupy encampments were being shut down all over the United States, and Occupy Tucson was one of the only ones standing. Then came Dec. 21st, 2011, the day that T.P.D. finally said, “Anything or anyone found in any park after dark will be arrested.” The one-time working group of Occupy Tucson Occupy Public Land (OPL) saw the writing on the wall that this would happen, and even had a good line on Dec. 21st being the date. So, luckily for Occupy Tucson there was a back-up plan. OPL applied for a park permit on Dec. 9th, and researched the sidewalk laws as a back-up to that. OPL knew the permit would not go through in time so they set-up on the sidewalk outside of Veinte de Agosto Park on Dec. 15th, and were uninterrupted when the park was raided.
Occupy Tucson and Occupy Public Land continued to reside on the sidewalk outside of Veinte de Agosto Park for the next month and a half, until Feb. 2nd, 2012 when Occupy Tucson set-up tents and a full operating encampment on the sidewalk outside of De Anza Park. Occupy Tucson has held the longest ongoing encampment in the nation, and now is in a position that they can continue to deliver their message without the fear of having their rights violated.
*On Feb. 5th, 2012 Occupy Public Land began working with #OccupyPhoenix in developing a strategy to recreate a twenty four hour encampment in the valley. The template has been created in Tucson, and the Phoenix Metro area is full of cities that have a lot of public land that can be occupied.]]>