Occupy Phoenix Busted Up By Police
Omnipresent Throughout the Day’s Events, Phoenix Police Clear Protesters From Margaret T. Hance Park At Midnight
By Wayne Schutsky and John Guzzon
Modern Times Magazine
Oct. 16, 2011 — With the first day of Occupy Phoenix winding down, protest supporters were forcibly removed from Margaret T. Hance Park by Phoenix police Saturday night, the culmination of the first day of Occupy Phoenix.
More than 200 police officers in riot gear, a helicopter, and numerous uniformed officers in traffic control began notifying protesters that they would be removed from the park at about 10 p.m. By midnight, police began making arrests. According to eye witnesses, police used force and chemical sprays to remove the Occupy Phoenix crowd from the park.
By 2 a.m. police had turned out all of the lights in the area and only a hundred or so Occupy Phoenix backers remained. Occupy Phoenix has announced that approximately 50 supporters had been arrested after midnight at Hance Park.
Many said, “I love you,” to the police as they were taken into custody. Most of the arrests were as peaceful as the protest had been all day.
There were reports of cell service being out at the park, although that was heavily disputed. When Modern Time Magazine staff was at the park Saturday night, cell phone service was not interrupted.
Occupy Phoenix backers, however, are undeterred and even galvanized by the arrests. They announced through their Twitter account early Sunday morning that they will be back at Margaret Hance Park at 7 a.m.
(Editor's note: As of 11 a.m. Sunday Oct. 16, the protesters have moved back to Cesar Chavez Plaza)
Although the protest was peaceful throughout the day, the city of Phoenix eventually made the decision to uphold the rule of law and remove anyone from the park after its closing hours. The park officially closes at 10 p.m.
Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, who protesters thought would come down and join them if police moved in, said, when it was clear that they were going to move in, that this protest did not fit his causes.
“I said I would support a protest if it directly addressed SB1070. This protest, though heartfelt, is not that protest,” Gordon said through Twitter.
Gordon also claimed that the decision to remove the protesters was not his, but that of City Manager David Cavazos and the Phoenix Police Department.
“The decision about arresting protesters belongs to City Manager David Cavazos and Phoenix PD. I hope peace prevails,” Gordon tweeted.
According to reporting by the Phoenix New Times, City Manager Cavazos was appointed to his position after heavy lobbying by developer Wayne Howard. According to reporting by the Arizona Republic, Cavazos was also suspended by the city in 2006 for flying first-class at the city’s expense.
Although the day ended with the forcible removal of protesters, when the event kicked off at noon, several thousand people took to Cesar Chavez Plaza to express their belief that they are being exploited by corporate greed.
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As soon as the crowd began to form, several people began to form a line near the steps in order to list their grievances to the sympathetic crowd.
By the time 2 p.m. hit, the line had grown to several hundred gatherers, sweating and waiting for their chance to speak.
The speakers ranged in age from late-teens to late-seventies. Many of the grievances were the same, even though the perspectives were different.
The protest organizers had obtained a permit from the City of Phoenix to use a microphone and PA system in the plaza during the protest. The system was set up on the steps and functioned as both a pulpit and public service announcement vehicle. In between voices of protesters, organizers urged everyone to drink water and notified the crowd of the location of water stations.
The water stations were one aspect of infrastructure set up by organizers to benefit the protesters. The protesters themselves also supported one another by donating money, water, and food.
One group called Phoenix Food Not Bombs started a buffet line later in the afternoon and allowed anyone, whether they were a protester or not, to walk through and pick up an array of vegetables, rice dishes and fruit.
One of the first men to speak at the microphone just after noon was Robert Howarth, an older man decked out in olive drab fatigues.
Some of what Howarth had to say appealed to the growing sentiment of the crowd, while other aspects seemed to belong to another political movement entirely.
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"We need to overturn Citizens United make it illegal for corporations to donate money to politicians," Howarth said. "Right now, members of Congress are nothing more than high-priced, corporate-owned whores."
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission is the 2010 Supreme Court decision that guaranteed First Amendment rights to corporations and unions.
The phrasing and message drew a thunder of raucous applause and various shout-outs from the crowd, as did Howarth's next message.
"We need a real national healthcare system that covers all Americans."
Howarth went on to propose a flat seven percent tax plan to fund the healthcare proposal. While the crowd was not as responsive to particulars, it cheered the idea of universal healthcare coverage.
Some of Howarth's ensuing comments were not as popular with the crowd, though he still garnered some cheers.
He asked the crowd to support a border security plan and penalty on employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants, because the influx of illegal labor in the country is bringing down wages. He also wanted a tax on American companies that export labor to foreign markets.
Howarth's proposals proved to be a microcosm of the afternoon to follow. As more and more speakers lined up, common themes began to arise while, at the same time, other, more distinct, ideas emerged.
A few speakers later, a man took the microphone and began the chant that has pervaded this movement since it began in New York.
"We are the 99 percent!"
The crowd continued to chant the mantra for several minutes, waving their signs and fists in the air.
About 20 minutes after Howarth spoke, one of the organizers took the microphone and read the manifesto put forth by the Occupy Wall Street protesters.
The manifesto illustrated the feeling of mass injustice felt by the protestors in New York and—as evidenced by the positive crowd reaction—in Phoenix, as well.
Among other ills, the manifesto pointed to the ways corporations use their influence over politicians to take democracy away from ordinary citizens.
"Democratic government derives power from the people," the organizer read.
More specifically, the manifesto stated that corporations, Wall Street and government compliance are responsible for illegal home foreclosures, a perpetuation of discrimination in the work place, and an undermining of the farming system that leads to a poisoned food source.
"They continue economic policies that don't work."
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