I began this blog in May 2009 following the death of Marcia Powell at Perryville State Prison in Goodyear, Arizona. It is not intended to prescribe the path that leads to freedom from the prison industrial complex.

Rather, these are just my observations in arguably the most racist, fascist, militaristic state in the nation at a critical time in history for a number of intersecting liberation movements. From Indigenous resistance to genocidal practices, to the fight over laws like SB1070 and the ban on Ethnic Studies, Arizona is at the center of many battles for human rights, and thus the struggle for prison abolition as well - for none are free until all are. I retired the blog in APRIL 2013.

Visit me now at Arizona Prison Watch or Survivors of Prison Violence-AZ

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Trespassing charges dismissed against Phoenix Occupiers

I should have written a complete post on this matter myself, but it was a tiresome ordeal, all those court dates, and rather anti-climactic. I'm thrilled that the charges were finally dismissed, but wanted my day in court, too, and I feel for all those folks who plead out early to get on with their lives who now have the consequences of a criminal record affecting their employment and housing opportunities. If it wasn't a crime worth prosecuting for us, then why should they still be getting punished for it? They should all get their plea agreements squashed and the charges dismissed, given the prosecutor's stand on this.

Blessings again to all those I did my brief stint with in Joe's jail, and to all those good souls fighting for truth, peace and justice (which includes decolonization, fellow Occupiers) out in the world today..if all you suffer through are cold floors, green oranges, and funky bread with Blue HUGS, count yourself fortunate - especially if you endure it with your comrades in the span of less than 24 hours. Many people have been tortured, imprisoned, and died around the world for what we did so casually that night. That's not a celebration of the Phoenix Police or the US Constitution, by the way - plenty of Americans have suffered and died in protest at the hands of the American military and police, and still are - they just call the protest something else these days, like "terrorism" or "gang-related crime", so no one pays attention to what happens to suspects labeled by the state that way now. 

I believe that those of us who have survived such encounters with law enforcement unscathed - and have even come through stronger - have a duty to pay closer attention now to those who don't: like the folks in Phoenix who really don't have a place to lay their head at night without being threatened with arrest for camping, for example. Most of the rest of us had a choice about being vulnerable to arrest or going home for the night - they didn't. Occupiers aren't out under tents anymore, but we still have a responsibility to challenge that law because we know first hand it's implementation is unjust, and the consequences of fines and jail time are far more devastating to the poor and those who lack privilege than they are to the white middle class that was so active with the Occupations, but - as history shows - is so easily appeased and convinced to abandon such causes, because the system they complain no longer works can be fixed to work for them - but only as long as it continues to oppress others...

My thanks, by the way, to attorneys Joy Bertrand and Shannon Peters for all their unpaid work on my case, and to Jane Joyce for her assistance and encouragement (Jane is also a pretty good rocker!). I guess I wrote a post of my own after all. Now here's the news and the court document to go with it...

Abolish the Phoenix Camping Ordinance!
Occupation of Margaret T. Hance Park
October 15, 2011

Phoenix drops last charges vs. 'Occupy' defendants

JJ Hensley
Arizona Republic
June 1, 2012

Charges against the final "Occupy Phoenix" protesters accused of trespassing were dropped this week after city prosecutors determined that justice would be served by dismissing the charges.

Twenty suspects remained of the 45 who were arrested on suspicion of trespassing and loitering at Margaret T. Hance Park in mid-October for refusing to leave after the park had closed. Twenty five of those arrested pleaded guilty, but the remaining 20 decided to fight the citations in court.

The anti-Wall Street movement known as "Occupy" started in Manhattan and spread to cities throughout the country last year. Occupy Phoenix started as a relatively large group when about 300 protesters demonstrated on Oct. 14 near Arizona State University's campus in downtown Phoenix. Protesters ultimately moved to Cesar Chavez Plaza at Washington Street and First Avenue, where dozens of people took shifts at kiosks during the day and then left in the evening to keep from violating a curfew.

But on Oct. 15, when an estimated 400 protesters walked through Hance Park, dozens of protesters refused to obey the commands of Phoenix police officers who were trying to clear the park by its 10:30 p.m. closing time. At 12:16 a.m., police began to arrest the defendants, according to court documents.

Aaron Carreon-Ainsa, a prosecutor on the case, said the reasons for the arrests were clear: Police repeatedly told the protesters to leave and after waiting nearly two hours began to make arrests.

Carreon wrote in the motion to dismiss the cases that the freedom to assemble, speak and protest are fundamental values protected by the U.S. Constitution and that the police were there to protect the protesters' rights. But they were also there to enforce the park's hours.

"We evaluate each case on its own merits and in no way should the dismissal of the charges that occurred on May 30 in city court be interpreted to mean that future trespasses will not be prosecuted," he said.
The city spent at least $200,000 on officer overtime in the first two weeks of the protests, according to former interim Police Chief Joe Yahner. But those costs do not include salaries for other city employees, including park workers and prosecutors.

----------------Motion to Dismiss--------------

The prosecution's motion to dismiss from court this week was a cut and paste job that doesn't describe my own "criminal" act of trespassing or loitering accurately - this thing just reads the same for everyone, except for our names and personal pronouns. I was out running around the field filming the riot police as they advanced on us when they took me down. I was the first one they grabbed, in fact...I guess I was kind of in the PPD's face, having pissed them all off earlier with my camping ordinance protest (the raising of the tents). But I'll settle for this account of what I did instead, since the dismissal came with it. Just know that the state's narrative of crime and protest isn't always right, even if they claim to have reached a "just" verdict or punishment. It's so often based solely on the version they buy from cops taking shortcuts and committing crimes of omission on reports...a uniform, badge and a gun hardly makes one honest or right, it just seems to make it unlikely that their credibility will be challenged nearly as much as that of the accused and our witnesses are...

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