Pamela Powers Hannley, a progressive voice for Arizona
UPDATE: The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed suit against the Tennessee governor and other state officials– including 100 state troopers– for violating Occupy Nashville protesters’ first amendment freedom by citing protesters for breaking curfew laws– the same tactic that the City of Tucson is using. From News Channel 5…
The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee has filed a lawsuit in federal court asking the state to stop enforcing the curfew that led to the arrest of Occupy Nashville protesters.
The ACLU is seeking a temporary restraining order against the new policies enacted last week by the state of Tennessee, claiming they violate the protesters’ First Amendment rights of free speech.[For the rest of the story, click here.]
UPDATE 2: A federal judge has sided with the Tennessee ACLU and the Occupy Nashville protesters and granted their request for a restraining order against the state– thus halting curfew citations. [For the rese of the story, click here.]
In dealing with the Occupation of downtown Tucson, our local government has taken passive aggressive route– hundreds of citations, demands for costly permits and insurance, threats of late-night sprinklers, and bureaucratic maneuvering.
The city’s latest legal tactic– zoning restrictions– popped up during the court hearings last week. When someone receives a citation at a certain location and the court allows the city to place a zoning restriction on that person, they cannot go back to that location for fear of further legal action. (This tactic is often used to keep prostitutes and drug dealers from locations where they practice their trade.) In last week’s Occupy Tucson court hearings, City Attorney Mike Rankin, City Manager Richard Miranda (former Tucson police chief), and others asked the court to place a zoning restriction on the cited protesters. The judge said “no” to this idea last week, but as the protesters cycle through the court system they will appear before different judges. One of them could agree to place the zoning restriction on cited protesters.
That would change the whole ball game, according to former City Councilman Steve Leal, a vocal supporter of Occupy Tucson on his talk radio show on KJLL The Jolt. If people are systematically barred from Armory Park, the protest could dwindle as more and more protesters are cited. As fewer and fewer tents are seen, the public perception would be that Occupy Tucson is loosing steam and that protesters are giving up their fight against corporate greed. Unless new people step up and camp at Armory Park or the Occupation moves to a park without a curfew, Occupy Tucson will die a slow death in the court system as the activists are prosecuted.
Passive aggressive tactics are easier– physically– on the protesters than night sticks and pepper spray and, in terms of public relations, may be easier on local officials, but that doesn’t mean that Tucson has completely avoided bad press in their dealings with Occupy Tucson.
Two weeks ago, I posted this storywith a video of Occupy Tucson’s Craig Barber discussing the Tucson Occupation with Keith Olbermann on national television.
From The Nation…
Occupy Tucson Needs Our Help
As my friend and colleague Greg Mitchell noted today in his invaluable live-blogging of the Occupy movement, “Perhaps the biggest little-told OWS local story is the massive number of arrests for OccupyTucson. Another 20 yesterday boosts overall total to an astounding (for the size) 351.”
And, unlike in Oakland, local authorities aren’t even trying to convince the rest of us that the Tucson police reacted defensively and appropriately in trying to ward off anarchist attacks. According to what Tucson Sergeant Maria Hawk told the weekly New Times, “most of the arrests were for remaining in a city park after hours.”
Hawk also estimated that on any given weekday in Tucson, there are about 100 “occupiers” demonstrating in city parks and on Tuesdays—when City Council meetings are held—and on weekends, that number increases to as many as 1,000 demonstrators. These are impressive numbers for a state without the liberal infrastructure of organized labor and nonprofit anti-poverty groups that has been supporting protesters in New York City, Boston and Washington, DC.
According to local activists, the Tucson Police Department is utilizing a strategy of financial and legal attrition to kill the movement by issuing criminal citations to occupiers who remain in any city park past 10:30 pm. This citation carries a $1000 fine, a potential prison sentence of six months in jail and up to three years probation. The rather sophisticated idea is to bleed the movement financially instead of using pepper spray and batons, which will only engender outrage and foster larger demonstrations. [For the rest of the story, click here.
From In These Times…
Police Disguise Protest Sabotage As Public Safety
The Occupy movements, in addition to being some of the most important activist movements to come along in the United States in several decades, have helped underscore several societal crises. For example, the failure of the establishment media and the rise of the beltway pundit class, the disappearance of public space, and also vanishing civil liberties, to name only a few.
Occupy has also served as a reminder of the ever-present police state, which rather than acting to “serve and protect,” oftentimes crushes and suppresses freedom of expression. We’ve witnessed this in obvious, overt, batshit crazy behavior like police using horses to stampede into a Times Square crowd, and when Oakland police turned their city into a war zone. But there are subtler, far sneakier [guess who they are referring to here] ways so-called public servants such as firefighters and the police, and by extension city officials, use the law as a weapon, or a convenient scapegoat, to control a rebellious faction of the population…
Then there’s the outrageous example of Occupy Tucson, one of the comparatively smaller Occupy movements that has suffered a disproportionately large percentage of arrests. On any given weekday, there are about 100 occupiers demonstrating in city parks, according to Tucson Sergeant Maria Hawk. That’s not exactly a wild surge in the population, or anything that should overwhelm the city. Yet, an astonishing 351 protesters have been arrested since the genesis of the movement. Hawk admits “most of the arrests were for remaining in a city park after hours.” This was also one of the excuses given in Oakland, along with the usual, “your fuel tanks are going to raze the entire city to the ground” speech.
The citation carries a $1000 fine, a potential prison sentence of six months in jail, and up to three years probation. Tucson activists rightly view this as an effort by police to bleed the movement financially instead of using bad PR-generating pepper spray and batons. While Occupy Wall Street got its moments to publicly “battle” the police and display how a force gone wild stifles dissent, Tucson is being quietly suffocated in the dead of night, and most of the public will be none the wiser.
What’s so deeply nefarious about this kind of civil rights assassination is that curfew and fire safety laws were created with genuine good intentions. It makes sense to not want individuals walking around in secluded, dark spaces at night, or not allow people to create bonfires in the middle of grounds covered in dry grass. But these well-meaning laws are now being used to crush the First Amendment…
The NYPD, OPD [Oakland], and Tucson police don’t want a bloody, drawn out war on their hands. It’ll look terrible in the media, and public sentiment is already on the side of the protesters.
What police and city officials prefer is a death by a thousand subtle little cuts. Take the generators, issue tickets, pull down the tents, and make life unbearable for the protesters. Hope they give up and go home when it snows, and if that doesn’t work, try to freeze the bastards out. [Emphasis added.]