Pamela Powers Hannley, a progressive voice for Arizona
At Monday’s Mayor and City Council candidate forum, City Council Member Shirley Scott dismissed Occupy Tucson, saying that the protesters were just a bunch of rabble-rousers from out of town.
Shirley, honey, lend an ear. Tucson has the highest rate of poverty of any city in the sunbelt. There are not enough local business owners to re-elect you; you are going to need some of the rest of us– some of the unemployed and underemployed– to check your name on the upcoming ballot to retain your seat on the City Council. Shirley, your constituents are the 99%– not the 1%. Your constituents are at Armory Park.
The above loneprotestor video accurately shows the wide cross section of people occupying Tucson’s Armory Park. Yes, in the video, you will see old hippies and college students, but there are also young mothers and babies, union members, nurses, teachers, retirees, unemployed workers, political activists, a Congressman, a mayoral candidate, even a certain progressive blogger– in other words, the 99%.
Old and young dressed in everything from jeans and sweaty T-shirts to full suits came to address Tucson’s council, mostly about Occupy Tucson, the Occupy Wall Street affiliated event that began Oct. 15 at Armory Park.
Their main gripe against the city were 109 citations protestors received Saturday through Monday, according to TPD, for staying at the park “after hours,” in this case after 10:30 p.m., which is a criminal trespassing violation under city code.
According to a press release sent out by Occupy Tucson itself, their demands were clear: “waive or reduce the citation fines levied against protestors,” it said.
“The cost every night to keep citing people is going to bankrupt you, I just hope you guys know that,” said protester Phillip Benoit during the call to the audience.
Benoit and many more spoke for almost two hours at the meeting for three minutes each, invoking the words of icons like Albert Einstein and Thomas Jefferson, and with topics ranging from corporate greed to water rights to the legacy of the unborn to crippling debt. But the Occupy Tucson crew rallied around one central idea—their right to free speech.
It often got personal.
“We gather not to cause trouble but to share our troubles with the rest of the 99 percent—which includes you,” said Kristina Ruiz.
“How will your descendents speak about you?” Michael Migliore asked the council.
Even calls of “shame on you!” were applauded by the group, though raucous applause often dwindled to jazz-hands-style finger waving during speeches to show approval.
Since there was nothing on the agenda about the citations, council members couldn’t act on what was discussed. Instead, they listened quietly to every individual with state-prescribed stoicism—though an occasional nod, raised eyebrow, or smile escaped the faces of several members and the mayor himself.
Overall, this was a particularly rowdy council meeting, with cheers and applause breaking out after most speakers. The energy was palpable. The crowd was particularly energized by the words of 62-year-old Margie King, a Tucsonan who has spent years in China teaching U.S. History.
“The American government supported the Tiananmen Square movement after 10:30 at night,” King said to cheers. “The American government supported protests in the middle east after 10:30 at night!”
After the call to the audience was adjourned, the group reassembled in front of City Hall, and a cry of—“To Armory Park!” could be heard in the crowd. [emphasis added]