Eight Arrested At Occupy Phoenix ‘Sleep In’
Supporters Of Local Movement Give Themselves Up For Arrest To Protest Sleeping Ban
Protesters try to get some sleep at Cesar Chavez plaza Friday night in an act of civil disobedience against the city of Phoenix "urban camping" ordinance.
By John Guzzon
Modern Times Magazine
Nov. 19, 2011 — In an act of civil-disobedience designed to highlight what Occupy Phoenix feels is a violation of their First Amendment right to assemble and protest, eight supporters were arrested by Phoenix police Friday night after they laid under canopies at Cesar Chavez plaza and attempted to sleep.
The city of Phoenix initially banned Occupy Phoenix from remaining in Cesar Chavez plaza over-night when the movement began Oct. 15. Nearly 50 people were arrested the first night at Margaret T. Hance Park. For the next four days, supporters kept the protest alive on four feet of sidewalk along Washington Ave., adjacent to Cesar Chavez Plaza. The city then reversed its action Oct. 20 after looking further into the situation and determining that Cesar Chavez plaza was not a park, but a thoroughfare, and that parks rules were not applicable.
The only condition the city placed on the allowance, however, was that no one could sleep, close their eyes for an extended period, or simulate sleep. The city contends such actions violate ordinance 23-30 which bans “urban camping.” The ordinance was passed by the city council in 2004 in order to give police tools against the homeless sleeping on city property.
In the month since Occupy Phoenix has been occupying Cesar Chavez plaza, a handful of supporters had been arrested for closing their eyes, or accidentally falling asleep, but this was the first time that a group actually fell asleep in a clear, intentional violation of the ordinance. In recent days, including at a Phoenix city council meeting Wednesday, Occupy Phoenix has begun a campaign tying their right to sleep and occupy a public place as an act protected by their First Amendment right to protest.
“We ask you to recognize our camping as an expression of our First Amendment right. By occupying, we express our steadfast commitment to demand the corruption of our government stops, and that we strengthen our bonds as a community to work toward that end,” Amanda Million told the Phoenix city council Wednesday.
Friday night, the eight protesters laid down together under two canopies in clear violation of the ordinance at about 6:30 p.m. As about 200 other supporters looked on. Police began to gather, and by about 8:30 p.m. more than 75 officers moved in to arrest the eight protesters. Police closed off the south end of the plaza, forming a line, and moved in to arrest the protesters. As they were all engaging in a civil disobedient protest, all eight were arrested without incident and police impounded their belongings and the two canopies. Although the crowd of supporters clearly outnumbered police, the crowd only hurled comments at police
As police began to move their line, the crowd began chanting, “shame.”
When the crowd began to follow the officers out of the south end of the plaza, police reformed the line and became targets of yelling, with some shouting, “you are the enemy,” yet others shouted, “join us.”
For more information, visit the group's webpage at http://occupyphoenix.net/, the #OccupyPhoenix Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/#!/occupyphoenix, the group’s Twitter page at http://twitter.com/#!/occupyphoenix or catch the livestream at http://www.livestream.com/occupyphoenix.
John Guzzon is editor of Modern Times Magazine.