Occupy Tucson protesters head to court
TUCSON, AZ (KOLD) - Dozens of Occupy Tucson protesters faced a judge for the first time on Tuesday morning.
Police cited them on October 15th, for refusing to leave Armory Park after hours.
The park closes at 10:30 PM and despite warnings from police, the protesters who chose to stay were issued citations.
The protesters headed to court with a team of about a half dozen volunteer attorneys. All pleaded "not guilty" and were assigned a new court date.
It was the 11th day of peaceful protests at Armory Park, and those gathered there on Tuesday night said, the citations had not scared them off. They were in this movement for the long haul.
Protesters said they were starting to build a community in their tent city. They showed us the kitchen, the IT department, and the Medic tent. They also had a community garden and lending library set up.
Eric Powell, who was helping prepare meals said their kitchen was up to code, and they hoped to get a permit from the health department to prepare hot food by Wednesday.
Despite the city crackdown and the police citations, Occupy Tucson protesters said they would not be backing down.
Phinaeus Ravenwood was fighting the wind, as he put up his tent on park grounds. It was his 7th night at the park. Ravenwood said he received a citation the first night, and went to court with the group that morning.
"I would rather not have been cited, but I feel strongly about this movement. I'll deal with the consequences," said Ravenwood.
The judge will have to determine whether the protesters are exercising their first amendment right of peaceful assembly, or breaking city law that states no one can sleep in the park after hours.
Jack Shafer felt confident the judge would side with them.
"I feel empowered by the first amendment as every third grade child has been told they have the right to peacefully assemble."
Many city officials said members of the Occupy Tucson movement should not get special privileges, and worried about the protest conflicting with up-coming events, like Tour de Tucson.
Every night at 10:30 police warned people the park was closed. Those who chose to remain were issued citations.
Police issued 28 citations on Monday night. Robbie Abalos described the atmosphere as being relaxed, even when citations were being issued.
"It's a joke. We talk to them. One night last week we had a big screen projector up and we were watching the Daily Show while they were giving us tickets," said Abalos.
We asked some of the protesters what they would do if the judge decided to impose fines.
"It's a lot of money. I'm hopeful I can exchange it for community service," said Ravenwood.
While Shafer said he did not have a job.
"I haven't had any work in three years. There is nothing I can do. I can scrounge for change and beg for money, or just go into collections," said Shafer.
The maximum fine a judge can impose is $1,000.
So far, police said they have spent about $37,000 in enforcement at the park.