Sunday, March 30, 2014
I get that TPD felt like they needed to be prepared for anything last night—there is, admittedly, a bit of a history in Tucson of post-game shenanigans when it comes to Wildcat Basketball during the month of March. I even understand that there were some minor uprisings on University Boulevard and at the south end of 4th Ave after Arizona’s heartbreaking overtime loss to Wisconsin—thankfully, no one was seriously hurt and no damage was reported. What I don’t quite understand is why, once the threat seemed to have passed, did TPD continue to not only lock down the public street, but also to push back against fans and citizens that obviously presented no harm.
While walking home toward the UA campus from our viewing post at Sky Bar, our small party of four hit what could only be described as a wall of riot police stretched across the whole of the street like a bulletproof black curtain. Anxious to document the situation for the Weekly (that is my job, as it were), I naturally began taking photographs of our newly-trained riot squad with my iPhone. There was some Facebook photo-posing by at least one bystander, but certainly no hint of aggression nor threat thereof. But the police, nonetheless—apparently still on hyper-alert after the rush that immediately followed the game—still seemed anxious for one last opportunity to put their new riot training to work. The street was clear, though officers pushed forward still and even began muscling people on the sidewalks. To simply be in the area of University and Euclid after the game apparently became a crime once the boys (and girls) in blue—or rather, black—had their adrenaline pumping.
When the line of cops started moving, I switched to video. Though you cannot see it in the clip, my wife—who was following police orders to disperse—took several sharp, painful shoves in the back from a baton as police re-cleared the already-clear street. I continued filming as the police approached, walking backwards in pace with them as best as I could manage while continuing to film and, before I knew it, my hands were being cuffed behind my back and I was led up the road to a waiting paddy wagon. I never saw the face of my arresting officer before he/she transferred me to another officer (the one that led me to the van). At no point was I read my rights nor was I told why I was being arrested, though about ninety minutes later I was issued a citation by yet another officer for “unruly gathering”. They were then nice enough to remind me how lucky I was not to be spending the night in County.
The other arrestees with whom I shared the space in the back of a police van for a long, uncomfortable hour-or-so (it’s hard to check the time with your hands secured behind your back) were an eclectic bunch ranging from a shirtless law student covered front and back with bean bag welts, a University freshman who claimed to be walking to Chipotle to buy a burrito after the game when he was apprehended, and a spiritually aggressive campus evangelist who never gave a reason for his detention except that he was apparently destined to convert the other eight people in the van to Christianity (editor's note: This evangelist would be Dean Saxton, otherwise known as the "You Deserve Rape" guy).
I’m not saying that TPD should not have riot police at the ready on big UA game nights. That just seems like common sense. But when it comes down to it, though the New York Daily News reported that Tucson Police Sergeant Pete Dugan claims that only those advancing on officers were arrested, there is at least one video (namely, this one) that proves you didn’t need to do any “advancing” whatsoever to be viewed as a threat by a super-charged, riot-ready police squad.
Though the plastic zip-tie cuffs left blisters on my left wrist and my sense of security as a journalist and citizen was left in doubt, the entire ordeal was still only slightly more difficult to handle than watching the tragic end to the UA season just a few moments before.