Occupy Tucson has filed a Federal lawsuit against the City of Tucson:
…This action seeks declaratory and injunctive relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§1983 and 1988; for injury to the First Amendment rights of individuals and organizations involved in lawful expressive activity in the City of Tucson, Arizona, and the 1st, 4th, 5th and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution and under the Constitution of the State of Arizona.
This is a description of the organization as the plaintiff- there are individuals named as well, but a description of the group as defined in their own lawsuit might be useful for those who’ve been dismissive of Occupy Tucson as a load of filthy hippies. Those reactionary regressive types couldn’t be more wrong.
Plaintiff Occupy Tucson is an unincorporated political association that is opposed to excessive corporate power and influence in the American political system. Occupy Tucson (OT) was formed in the aftermath of the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City and is part of a world-wide movement inspired by Occupy Wall Street. There are now similar occupations in more than 1,100 cities across the country and the world. In fact, a National Journal/United Technologies survey released on October 19 revealed that 59 percent of adults either completely agree or mostly agree with the protesters.1 Occupy Tucson is a directly democratic association and has been in existence only for a short period of time. OT established its “occupation” on October 15, 2011, at Armory Park, a public park located in downtown Tucson, Arizona.
A member of the group with 24 tickets, equating to $24,000 in fines, reports that this lawsuit against the city has been denied, as it seems there legal standards of notice were not met. He opined that this had more to do with paper arrests being not that big a deal. From Courthousenews.com:
U.S. District Judge Cindy Jorgenson denied the group’s request for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction late Tuesday, finding that the city had not been served and had not had a chance to respond to the charges.
From the Court’s denial of the TRO [link in previous quote]:
A Temporary Restraining Order (“TRO”) is unwarranted in this case. Although the record reflects that Plaintiffs’ counsel spoke with Defendant Michael Rankin about the plan to file the Complaint in this matter, it is devoid of any reasons why Defendants should not be given notice and an opportunity to respond to the allegations at issue. Plaintiffs activities began October 15, 2011. On November 3, 2011, Plaintiffs were directed to leave Armory Park, and reestablished their activities at Viente De Agosto Park.Tucson Police Department (“TPD”) officers have cited protesters for violations of the Tucson City Code since Plaintiffs’ occupation commenced. The ongoing activities of Plaintiffs and TPD’s response has remained unchanged. Plaintiffs filings with this Court fail to demonstrate a clear showing of likely success on the merits and likely irreparable injury. Plaintiffs’ counsel failed to certify in his affidavit why notice should not be given to Defendants or why it should not be required. Accordingly, Plaintiffs’ request for a TRO is DENIED.
Well, OK. I can see where being fined is not “irreparable injury.” It’s passive-aggressive on the part of the City, it’s ridiculous to levy fines against broke/strapped/unemployed persons that may as well be a gazillion dollars for all the financial capability even the employed protestors may have at their fingertips, but it’s not “irreparable.”
And I’ll give credit where credit is due: Every single cop I’ve met at Occupy Tucson, either at the park or on the marches, has been polite and solicitous to a fare-thee-well. The City of Tucson could have gone the Oakland/Phoenix/Brooklyn Bridge route and ordered the use of the riot gear, teargas and rubber bullets. I think they haven’t, not because of the moral bankruptcy of the practice, but because Tucson is fully humanist enough to rise up in rage if the City did martyr our own version of Scott Olsen, and it’s easier and less obtrusive and politically expedient to simply fine Occupy Tucson out of existence.
The crux of the matter: The City of Tucson has chosen an approach that follows the letter of the law. They have chosen to follow this letter in such a way as to stifle the expression of free speech in the city, and hobble the First Amendment rights of Americans. If Federal law trumps state law in matters specifically outlined in the Constitution of the United States of America, then the City of Tucson powers-that-be have failed in the loftier, and more noble, spirit of the law.
Americans have the right to free speech, as outlined in the First Amendment. This country grew out of tumult and chaos, but from that chaos came growth into the the America we love. If the City is choosing the security of public safety and the maintenance of order over the Constitution-codified right of freedom of expression, then they’re missing the forest for the trees. Benjamin Franklin said it best:
- Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
- Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759
US author, diplomat, inventor, physicist, politician, & printer (1706 – 1790)
I have every hope that America, and Americans, really are strong enough to withstand the slings and arrows that come from challenging the status quo. The longer it takes to do so, the more we allow the gaming of the system, the more strength we as a nation will need.
Update: I’d like to thank the posters who have clarified my understanding of the ruling. To paraphrase Dr. McCoy, I’m an English teacher, not a lawyer, Jim!