Dozens of arrests follow Arizona 'Occupy' protests

AP News
Posted: Oct 16, 2011 6:20 PM
Dozens of arrests follow Arizona 'Occupy' protests

Authorities in Arizona arrested nearly 100 people after two separate protests in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

The 53 arrests in Tucson and 46 in Phoenix on Saturday night came hours after peaceful protests against financial institutions as part of a series of such demonstrations across the country. Police said demonstrators in each city failed to leave parks at curfew.

Phoenix police said protesters marched from a downtown rally at Cesar Chavez Plaza to Margaret T. Hance Park on Saturday evening and the park had a posted 10:30 p.m. closing time.

"As the park closing hour passed, many of the demonstrators refused to leave," said police spokesman Sgt. Trent Crump, adding that officers told the protesters "to leave or be subject to arrest."

Crump said "a large group remained and refused to leave the park," resulting in 46 arrests for criminal trespass, a misdemeanor.

"Most of those arrested were passive in nature and no injuries were reported to either officers or demonstrators," he said.

The names of the 46 arrested weren't immediately provided by Phoenix police.

In Tucson, about 100 miles south of Phoenix, police said 53 demonstrators were arrested after they remained in Military Plaza Park after the 10:30 p.m. closing time Saturday.

An estimated 150 protesters were at the park at the time and they were told they would be arrested if they didn't leave, said Sgt. Matt Ronstadt, a Tucson police spokesman.

Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villasenor addressed the remaining demonstrators at 11:15 p.m. and officers began issuing criminal citations for violating the city's code by remaining in a city park after hours.

Ronstadt said no police force was used during the citation process and all 53 were released pending a court appearance.

The Tucson rally began around noon Saturday and drew an estimated 500 people.

About 1,000 people attended the Occupy Phoenix event that began with an afternoon gathering at Cesar Chavez Plaza.

By 5 p.m., many protesters had marched to Margaret T. Hance Park and their numbers continued to dwindle throughout the evening.

After police repeatedly ordered protesters to leave, a line of about 100 helmeted officers, many carrying batons, formed around 11 p.m. PDT.

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The arrests began around midnight after a group of demonstrators sat on the ground, refusing to move. Police slowly escorted them away one-by-one.

The arrests appeared peaceful and there were no signs of violence between the officers and a crowd of less than 100 people still milling about the park, which had officially closed by late evening.

Protester Davin Wright, 31, described the scene as generally peaceful, but he said police acted roughly during some of the initial arrests.

"Anyone who thought they were going to be crunching skulls; it's not going to happen," he said.

Later, a dozens of people remaining inside the park withdrew to the street as the line of officers slowly walked toward them.

Groups have been turning out across the country to express anger over costly health care and rising unemployment, and to cast blame on corporate interests for the economic pain they say all but the wealthiest Americans have endured since the financial meltdown.

The Occupy Wall Street protests started Sept. 17 in front of the New York Stock Exchange.