150 at Armory Park stay into the night

2011-10-16T00:00:00Z 2011-10-19T12:20:12Z 150 at Armory Park stay into the nightAnissa Tanweer For The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
October 16, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Hundreds of Tucsonans brought the Occupy Wall Street demonstration home Saturday, but as the night wore on police were asking them to go home.

Tucson police warned Occupy Tucson protesters, about 150 of whom were settling in for the night at Armory Park, to leave by 10:30 p.m. or be ticketed. But as the deadline passed, officers were slow to start the citations.

Saturday's Tucson protest was part of a global movement that has sprung up in recent weeks to support Occupy Wall Street, an ongoing protest in Manhattan that criticizes income disparity and the influence of money in American politics, among other themes.

On Saturday about 1,000 similar "Occupy" events were scheduled in 87 different countries, according to Occupy Together, a website tracking the protests.

Craig Barber, one of the organizers of Occupy Tucson, estimated about 1,000 people attended the local event throughout the day.

They spread out across the grass, retreating from the unseasonable 99-degree heat in patches of shade cast by the park's enormous trees. Volunteers passed out donated bottles of water, and trained medics were on hand to deal with any health issues that arose.

About 500 people were in the park at noon when organizers convened an assembly to decide the route of their march downtown. About 350 took part in the march.

It was an orderly procession, with demonstrators sticking to the sidewalks, waiting at traffic signals and making sure not to disturb the events at Tucson Meet Yourself, a cultural event being held downtown this weekend.

"Everyone's been very peaceful and cooperative," said Lt. Danny Denogean of the Tucson Police Department, who was at the park.

The march may have been sedate, but the debate was lively at times, with protesters defending their positions to skeptics in the crowd. Participants in the Occupy movement are having similar conversations all over the country, fighting off rejections of the protests by politicians, pundits, cartoonists and editorialists.

"I think at first it was treated as a flash in the pan, but I think after today there's going to be more emphasis on it, and there's going to be legitimacy," said demonstrator Jennifer Treece, 62, of Tucson.

Protesters aired a variety of grievances Saturday, spanning issues from health care and unemployment, to global warming and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But for many of these protesters, all those issues connect back to their main contention: That American policies are decided with the interests of big companies in mind.

And while they may not have agreed upon a specific platform, at least one demand was repeated again and again: They want to see a constitutional amendment specifying that corporations cannot be considered people.

Such an amendment would roll back the precedent set by the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision. In that case, the court ruled that First Amendment speech protections extend to corporations and unions, ensuring them the right to disseminate political messages. Critics of that decision contend it has allowed unlimited amounts of money to enter political races, with little transparency or accountability.

Regardless of that refrain, participants of Occupy Tucson are hesitant to project a single, unified message. "I can only proclaim my ideas and provide the opportunity for others to do the same," said Barber, who manages Occupy Tucson's website. "It's good that it can't be pigeonholed," Treece said. "There's a lot of stuff going on that's unacceptable."

Protesters 'Occupy Tucson'

On StarNet: Go to azstarnet.com/gallery for more photos of the protest.

Star reporter Jamar Younger contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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