Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Occupying the Tucson City Council Meeting

Posted By on Wed, Oct 19, 2011 at 10:00 AM

The crowd cheers about comments said at the Oct. 18 council meeting. Members of Occupy Tucson came to address the council to get their citations waived or reduced.
  • Kellie Mejdrich
  • The crowd cheers about comments said at the Oct. 18 council meeting. Members of Occupy Tucson came to address the council to get their citations waived or reduced.

Mayor and council chambers were crammed to capacity Tuesday night as Occupy Tucson temporarily occupied the Oct. 18 council meeting to protest citations given for remaining in the park after hours.

According to TPD numbers, about 80-120 Occupiers assembled outside before the meeting to protest, and later those who were too late to sign up to comment at the meeting, or just couldn’t fit inside, lingered brandishing signs— a red one in painted black capital letters, read: “Jobs Not War.”

Old and young dressed in everything from jeans and sweaty T-shirts to full suits came to address Tucson’s council, mostly about Occupy Tucson, the Occupy Wall Street affiliated event that began Oct. 15 at Armory Park.

Their main gripe against the city were 109 citations protestors received Saturday through Monday, according to TPD, for staying at the park “after hours,” in this case after 10:30 p.m., which is a criminal trespassing violation under city code.

According to a press release sent out by Occupy Tucson itself, their demands were clear: “waive or reduce the citation fines levied against protestors,” it said.

“The cost every night to keep citing people is going to bankrupt you, I just hope you guys know that,” said protester Phillip Benoit during the call to the audience.

Benoit and many more spoke for almost two hours at the meeting for three minutes each, invoking the words of icons like Albert Einstein and Thomas Jefferson, and with topics ranging from corporate greed to water rights to the legacy of the unborn to crippling debt. But the Occupy Tucson crew rallied around one central idea—their right to free speech.

It often got personal.

“We gather not to cause trouble but to share our troubles with the rest of the 99 percent—which includes you,” said Kristina Ruiz.

“How will your descendents speak about you?” Michael Migliore asked the council.

Even calls of “shame on you!” were applauded by the group, though raucous applause often dwindled to jazz-hands-style finger waving during speeches to show approval.

Since there was nothing on the agenda about the citations, council members couldn’t act on what was discussed. Instead, they listened quietly to every individual with state-prescribed stoicism—though an occasional nod, raised eyebrow, or smile escaped the faces of several members and the mayor himself.

Overall, this was a particularly rowdy council meeting, with cheers and applause breaking out after most speakers. The energy was palpable. The crowd was particularly energized by the words of 62-year-old Margie King, a Tucsonan who has spent years in China teaching U.S. History.

“The American government supported the Tiananmen Square movement after 10:30 at night,” King said to cheers. “The American government supported protests in the middle east after 10:30 at night!”

After the call to the audience was adjourned, the group reassembled in front of City Hall, and a cry of—“To Armory Park!” could be heard in the crowd.

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