Pamela Powers Hannley, a progressive voice for Arizona
Throughout the day yesterday, Occupy Tucson posted calls to action on its facebook page alerting supporters to a possible eviction that evening.
For a little more than two months, Occupy Tucson has maintained a continuous encampment downtown– first at Armory Park and then at Veinte de Agosto Park, after their first eviction by the Tucson Police Department (TPD). The Occupiers have never wavered in their demands for free speech and in their fight for the 99% and against the corporate takeover of the US.
Despite being one of the smaller Occupations in the US, Tucson Occupiers have suffered more police harassment than other Occupations. To the credit of the police and the Occupiers, there have been no violent clashes, but the Tucson Occupiers have received a disproportionate number of citations. Occupy Tucson citations are second only to Occupy Wall Street (1,359), according to the Occupy Tucson legal team, quoting data from St. Pete for Peace, an independent group that has verified (with two reliable sources) 5,425 Occupy arrests nationwide. Tucson has had 455 arrests according to St. Pete for Peace, but TPD has reported more than 700 arrests.
Occupy Tucson disappeared from downtown last night. Homeless but undaunted, what will be the next steps for Occupy Tucson?
UPDATE: Occupy Tucson will hold a noon meeting today (December 22, 2011) in Presidio Park in downtown Tucson to discuss next steps.
UPDATE 2: MoveOn.org sent out a message that there will be an Occupy Tucson General Assembly in Armory Park tonight (December 22, 2011) at 6 p.m.
Here is an eye-witness account of the eviction by Alex Maldonado, Veteran for Peace and Tucson Occupier.
On Wednesday evening [Dec. 21, 2011] at 7 p.m., during Occupy Tucson’s General Assembly, Tucson Police Department (TPD) Chief Villasenor interrupted the GA to announce that TPD would close Veinte de Agosto Park at 10:30pm tonight and wanted all occupiers out of the park.
A few minutes later, two TPD cruisers shut down Broadway and Church, followed by over a dozen TPD vehicles that encircled the encampment.
Flood lights were then set-up to give light to the entire park as occupiers began a second bug-out since the start of the occupation on October 15th.
Vehicles appeared, helping occupiers pack and move every item from the encampment to a safe location elsewhere.
The Veterans For Peace flag which has been flying over the encampment since the beginning of the occupation was lowered from the flagpole, yet a second time, but was promised to fly over the next encampment by the Veterans For Peace, who lowered the flag.
The TPD presence grew again at 10pm, when more TPD vehicles arrived with lights flashing. TPD cruisers, SUV’s, motorcycles and one pick-up truck had the park surrounded. Occupiers were finishing the bug-out and were, yet again, picking any and all trash from the park, leaving it better than when the occupation found it.
At one point, the occupiers stormed back into the park as TPD watched helplessly, and took some group photos with the statue of Pancho Villa in the background. Just as fast as the group rushed in, the group returned back to the “safe zone” which was the sidewalk.
Melissa Tibbals-Gribbin made a stand of her own, as she marched back into the park, stood atop a rock formation and held her hand in the air until TPD circled her, handcuffed her and took her into custody.
Occupiers then decided to sleep on the sidewalk but only after TPD imposed “a sleeping bag and covers only” policy for those few brave souls.
Five hours since the first two TPD cruisers shut down Broadway and Church, TPD finally left with only a small token crew to watch over the park for the remainder of the night.
Even though the occupiers were evicted yet again, spirits were high and a GA was already being planned for the next day. Occupy Tucson may be homeless tonight but tomorrow always brings hope for the movement and a new location to be determined.