Monday, October 17, 2011

City of Tucson Defies U.S. and State Constitutions by Shutting Down Occupy Protest

John Brakey

The City of Tucson has chosen to deny the peoples right to peaceful assembly as guaranteed by both the US and Arizona Constitutions. They're doing so by using a city ordinance written as a measure prevent the homeless from living in the parks.  That form of enforcement of a local issue is not required when applied to a political protest as it prevents a peaceful assembly for the common good.

 “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” – US First Amendment, Bill Of Rights

“The right of petition, and of the people peaceably to assemble for the common good, shall never be abridged.” - Arizona Constitution, Article 2 Section 5 [Note that under this section, camping in the park because you are homeless (for personal gain) might be illegal, but for the common good (political protest) it is a protected activity]

 The Arizona Daily Star  reported 53 citizens given citations and charged with vagrancy last Saturday night as they stood up for their First Amendment right to peacefully assemble at the Occupy Tucson event at Amory Park. Included was philanthropist Peggy Hitchcock. Peggy had to search for a cop willing to give her a citation once they realized who she is.  Also, given citations were:

 * Mary DeCamp, Green Party activist and candidate for Tucson’s mayor;

 * Arlene Leaf, local small business owner and activist;

 * Jon McLanne, one of the Occupy Tucson organizers;

 * John R Brakey, election integrity activist and many more.

 The encounter between the Tucson Police Department and the peaceful assembly of citizens was a model of civility with mutual respect and good communication appreciated by both sides. This is in contrast to what happened in Phoenix where people were sprayed with pepper spray and forcefully arrested as they said “we love you” to the Police.  (must see video)

 The Tucson Police used a velvet glove approach to the assembly here.  They are doing “catch and release” ticketing of anyone in the park after hours (10:30pm-7am).  The Tucson Police gave criminal citations knowing they will be challenged in the courts and at the city council.

 As civil as everything is, the Tucson Police will continue giving criminal citations on a nightly basis.  It is the hope of the citizens that this is not a strategy to financially intimidate the peacefully assembled citizens to interfere with their rights to assemble for the common good.

 There is a sense of urgency for the City Council to quickly address this issue by putting it on the agenda for the Tuesday Oct.18 meeting (5:30 pm at City Council Chambers). Arguments will be presented to acknowledge the importance of not abridging Arizona and Federal constitutional law.  A number of people who were cited have asked Attorney Bill Risner to speak on their behalf.  Others are encouraged to speak also.

 Since agenda items must be posted prior to the meeting, people are urged to call the Mayor and City Council Members immediately to make this request.
Link to

The Mayor and Council set policy. Their policy must be to enforce the Constitution as they swore they would do. 

John Brakey, co-founder of AUDIT-AZ (Americans United for Democracy, Integrity, and Transparency in Elections, Arizona)
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