Police and Protest

To the Editor,

We appreciate this opportunity to state our views about the events which took place on April 20, during the March Against the Free Trade Area of the Americas FTAA. A significant number of errors appeared in the three articles covering the Tucson protests. One headline proclaimed, "Leaders See Protest Go Out Of Control." Yet the article only cites one misquoted women who was not actually a leader (Tucson Citizen, 4-21-01). When Alicia Weber said, "We can't handle [all] these people... the protesters are taking things in their own hands," she was only distancing herself from the cop-media mindset that there had to be "leaders." There weren't any leaders at any time, only peacekeepers and a few individuals coordinating the march with the police "leaders." The whole crowd acted out their own desires and their own direction.

Talk to anyone experienced at these kind of actions, and appreciate the amazing show of self-control that hundreds of celebratory people practiced that day in downtown Tucson. This was one of the most peaceful and restrained street occupations ever to occur anywhere. No property was damaged, no injuries or threatening confrontations marred the free-flowing celebration, and very few motorists seemed upset at the minor traffic delays.

Another odd piece of reporting appeared in the Arizona Daily Star on April 22, "Organizers ended rally before arrests were made." A small group broke away and headed for North Fourth Avenue. None of these organizers are identified in the article because they didn't exist. Most of the crowd marched on to Fourth Avenue with only a few people leaving the march because they were tired, getting far from their cars or perhaps they left as a result of intimidation. Most people are afraid to even speak out on injustice or participate in democracy; these mostly first-time protesters were willing to risk arrest. What if they had known what the police were planning next? The previously cooperative Tucson Police Department saw an opportunity to whip out their muscle and send in 30 riot-equipped robo-cops.

It is also misleading to casually state "protesters clashed with police in riot gear." (Daily Star, April 22) It was protesters heads which clashed with the pavement as the Tucson Police switched tactics, recklessly sped their cars into the crowd and nearly killed several people. This was a planned and vicious attack on peaceful young marchers who were only minutes away from self-dispersing. Even the Star's own reporter says that the protest had calmed down by 7:20 p.m. when the police escalated the situation. The reporter was assaulted, verbally abused, handcuffed and booked into jail.

The injuries suffered by the protesters were not minor or few. At least 10 people had bruised and bloody heads, damaged wrists or wrenched shoulders. And many were traumatized by the experience. The news media say an officer was injured as well, but they fail to make it clear that the protesters had nothing to do with the poor officer's mishap. The injury occurred when a large, riot-clad officer tripped on a curb and fell on his face. Many people witnessed this as well as the officer's subsequent rush into a tree where his shotgun went flying down the street! No objects were thrown at the police despite the fact that police cars were used to chase bicycles onto curbs where protesters had to leap off their bikes in order to avoid being crushed.

At least 20 protesters were arrested on April 20, which is three more than the police managed to apprehend a few weeks earlier when drunken basketball-rioters were busy burning vehicles and smashing windows.

We demand an apology from the police department and full review of their dangerous actions.

All charges against the protesters must be dropped and the City Council should get busy straightening out the problems at the top of the Tucson Police Department--before someone gets fatally injured the next time we choose to exercise our First Amendment rights. It is up to all of Tucson's citizens to step up to the challenge of healing our community and resolving this very serious problem.

--The Tucson 12, Arizona Earth First!, Autonomous Green Anarchists, Students Against Brutality and Cop Watch of Pima County

To the Editor,

"The cow that defecates in the road thinks that he is messing up the road. He fails to realize that he is exposing himself to the world."

This West African proverb sums up the actions of the Tucson Police Department at the anti-FTAA celebration, where nonviolent demonstrators and onlookers were attacked by TPD officers. Barreling down the streets and alleys in the Fourth Avenue neighborhood between University Boulevard and Sixth Street, cops were jumping out of their cars, randomly grabbing people, slamming them to the ground and stuffing them inside. I witnessed officers drive up to the northwest corner of Fifth Street and Hoff where a group of kids were standing after walking away from the crowd on Fourth Avenue. I watched as they tackled two kids to the ground, shoved them in the car and drove off. There was no evidence that these kids were participating in disorderly conduct or impeding traffic. What I saw was police brutality.

I teach non-violent conflict resolution to middle school youth. I try to impart skills that they can use in their everyday lives, like walking away from bullies who threaten their safety, or calling the police if they see someone being harassed. It is a confusing message to send to young people when the "Officers of the Peace" themselves are the perpetrators of such crimes. I find it more and more difficult to reconcile this paradox in my teaching as the evidence of police violence in Tucson rises to public awareness. I call upon the city of Tucson to subject TPD to public review.

--Leah Berger

Film Negatives

To the Editor,

As a six-year resident of Tucson and a loyal reader of the Weekly, I was sadly shocked to find that you chose to run the article about how Tucson's boomtown film industry is now a wasteland ("How the West was Filmed," April 19) during the same week as the Arizona International Film Festival. Despite the fact that the article's content is really about Hollywood's residue and not independent filmmakers' passion, the cover illustration, the subtitle and the choice to run this feature during the one week of the year that coincides with AIFF is disappointing to me.

I make it a point to be as active as I can in the creative community here in town and be supportive of the arts. On a given night, unfortunately, there are only a few things to see or do, but at least artists are putting what they have out there for the town to enjoy. The Weekly has always championed itself as a supporter of local talent, yet this article seems like a blatant slap in the face to those who have worked so hard to put together the festivities that have so far made it to the 10-year mark. In addition, there are visiting filmmakers from all over the world and they see this issue bark at them from the newsstands. How embarrassing.

Perhaps in the future, Tucson's budding artists and venue pioneers would appreciate more sensitivity from the publication they so greatly need to encourage them to greatness beyond our modest city limits.

--Christine Scheer

Memory Lane

To the Editor,

Recently a Tucson friend sent me a copy of your outstanding piece on Paddy and Mim Walsh ("Arizona Irish," March 15), which brought back to me those splendid years, from 1946 through 1960 when I was a student at the University of Arizona, then a reporter/copy editor, at the Tucson Daily Citizen. My connection to them was admittedly peripheral; I was primarily a bystander at the many parties where they entertained their listeners with old songs and stories. I was (technically, at least) the stepson of Desmond (Des) Powell, whom my mother had married in 1942, when I was 17 and about to enter the Army.

In fact, the photo reproduced on page 8, showing Des, Doug Martin and Paddy, was taken by me with my own Speed Graphic, now a relic, unused because I cannot find a source of 3-1/4 by 4-1/4 cut film.

Often, lubricated by various potables, they would sit in on the hearthstone in front of our fireplace (as shown, at 1800 N. Stone Avenue) passing their instruments around and singing the variegated songs they knew so well. Sometimes Doug would haul out his ukulele for one tune or another, but usually the guitar was dominant.

Doug Martin was my major professor (journalism), so I knew him not only as a wise instructor but also as a family friend. But Margaret Regan's excellent account, derived from Mim's diaries, brought forth things I'd never known about Paddy and Mim. I hope it receives wider circulation than the Tucson Weekly can possibly provide.

Regan's piece affords me nothing to add, nor do I have any indication of her age or professional background, so I'll leave off this laudatory note with best wishes for her career as a wonderful writer who should go far in journalism. I'm confident that she'll be a smashing success!

--Fritz Kessinger

Abusing the System

To the Editor,

According to the Arizona state government, premeditated murder is just fine with them as long as the perpetrator is a woman. All she needs to do is claim abuse. On Friday, April 20, Governor Hull commuted the sentence of Carol Herriman of Camp Verde, a convicted murderer who is now at large, presumably somewhere in our state.

This is not justice by any means. This sends a clear message to women in Arizona that now they can even kill their spouses/significant others and get away with it, just because they're women.

Arizona has services and shelters for abused women in every county. There is even a Governor's Commission on Violence Against Women, and a Governor's Office for Domestic Violence Prevention, representing millions of dollars of state and federal funding, earmarked exclusively for women. According to the Spring 2000 issue of Breaking the Cycle, the newsletter from the AZ Governors Commission on Violence Against Women, in 1999, 26,717 women and children were able to seek shelter through these programs. (A caveat--this number likely represents numbers of shelter visits, rather than actual unduplicated numbers of people served.) Even in 1988, the year of the murder, there were local services in place that would have helped Ms. Herriman had she chosen to access them. Yet Carol Herriman ignored the services and resources and took matters into her own hands. She killed her alleged abuser.

I say alleged, because of course the victim was not available for comment or to say anything in his own defense.

It is stated in that same newsletter that 19,775 visitors to shelters in 1999 were turned away. There is no mention of men in this figure; they cover women and children only. That is because out of the millions of dollars of taxpayer money spent annually for domestic violence services, there is nothing spent on men who are abused. One wonders how those women turned away from shelters are treated; are they now directed to the nearest sporting goods store?

It would appear that Governor Hull has declared open season on men. I would advise all men in Arizona to be particularly circumspect in their dealings with the women in their lives, because it would seem they are now fair game.

--Trudy W. Schuett

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