Tucson police prepare for Occupy Tucson protests

TUCSON, AZ (KOLD) - Tucson police and city officials were bracing for at least thousand people to "occupy" Armory Park, on Saturday.

Police said they had been in talks with some of the organizers of the movement, and were told this would be a peaceful occupation, unlike the protests in New York City, Denver, and other parts of the United States.

The group gained momentum after a huge turn-out in New York City a few weeks ago.  Protesters were angry about the lagging U.S. economy, they were frustrated with high unemployment numbers, and corporate greed.

Tensions mounted, as police clashed with protesters in other cities, and dozens of people were arrested.

Tucson police said, despite national reports, they were prepared for a peaceful protest.  Chief Roberto Villasenor said his department intended to keep a low profile.

Instead of police in riot gear, Villasenor said you would see a few bike cops, and officers patrolling the grounds on foot.

They would be keeping an eye on the situation, but would remain hands off, unless protestors got out of control and harmed public safety.

The group planned to gather at Armory Park at 9 AM on Saturday.  They planned to hold a general assembly, and protests were anticipated to begin after noon.  Some groups planned to get off park grounds and march into parts of downtown, with their message.

Police said they had open lines of communication with the group, and had informed them that city ordinances required them to have permits and reservations, and camping was not allowed overnight unless you had a permit, and those were very limited.

The group had not requested permits or reservations, and in flyers that were being passed out, they encouraged participants to bring sleeping bags and stay overnight for as long as the protests lasted.

Craig Barber, one of the spokesmen of Occupy Tucson said they had no idea how long they would stay out there.  The plan was until Wall Street announced some major changes.

Barber also said if anyone got out of hand at the protests, they would ask them to leave, saying the group was committed to have a peaceful protest.

"We're trying to do everything and anything we can to alleviate the concerns of the city and the police department," said Barber.

He added that the group had rented sanitation facilities, and had assigned trash pick-up duties to members, to help the city.

City officials said anyone who stayed in the park after 10:30 PM was breaking the law.  When asked if the police department planned to issue citations, Chief Villasenor said they would assess each situation individually.

Villasenor said officers would verbally try to send the message that the park would be closed after 10:30 PM.  Villasenor said his officers were not prepared to start forcing people out of the park, and create hostility.

"We do not want to be antagonistic," said Villasenor.

When asked how they police department planned to enforce the law, Villasenor said this was a complicated matter, because there was no one person they could fine for permits/reservation fees.  This was a movement.

The park would remain open for other activities, during the protest.

Villasenor said if the group planned to have vendors and food stalls there as they had stated, they would also require vendor permits, and health department permits, so there could be several violations here.

Occupy Tucson organizers were advising protesters to listen to police instructions, but they were also handing out fliers advising protesters to be prepared in case of an arrest.

The flier instructed them to have plans to care for their children or pets in case they were taken into custody, and to have their lawyer's number handy.

Police said they had re-arranged schedules, and some officers would be working over time to keep an eye on activities at and around Armory Park, around the clock.