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Occupy suit alleges free speech violations

Nov. 9, 2011 at 8:48 AM   |   Comments

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TUCSON, Nov. 9 (UPI) -- An Occupy Tucson lawsuit says city officials and police are violating protesters' right to free speech while crime stats in New York offer a mixed bag of data.

In Arizona, Occupy Tucson said in a federal complaint that the city illegally pushed protesters out of a downtown park with threats of mass arrests and now is issuing citations to demonstrators camped in another park, Courthouse News Service reported Tuesday. Reports indicate police issued at least 471 citations since the protests began Oct. 15, each punishable by a fine of up to $1,000.

Occupy Tucson and seven people sued the city, the Tucson Police Department, Mayor Bob Walkup and other officials in federal court, alleging violations of the state and federal constitutions. The suit seeks an injunction barring the city from enforcing curfew and permit ordinances in three public parks.

Protesters told Courthouse News police officers show up at the group's main encampment nightly to issue citations to anyone refusing to leave. One plaintiff said he was ticketed more than 30 times.

"Occupy Tucson has made every effort to accommodate the city while carrying on with their protected expression to no avail," attorney Paul Gattone, who is volunteering his services, said on the group's Web site. "We were forced to go to the federal court in order to defend our clients' free speech rights."

In New York, where the Occupy movement protesting the inequity of wealth distribution and other social issues began in September, police statistics indicate the number of arrests and crimes rose in October, but the number of summonses fell in the precinct where Zuccotti Park is located, The New York Times said.

Crime data inside the park is difficult to determine because New York city police are stationed along the park's perimeter while protesters patrol inside, the Times said.

In Raleigh, N.C., a City Council panel Tuesday recommended against allowing Occupy Raleigh demonstrators to camp outside City Hall, but the mayor-elect offered to work with the group to find private property downtown that would be suitable, The News & Observer reported.

Mayor-elect Nancy McFarlane, who will be sworn in next month, told the newspaper she was in discussions with a downtown property owner who was "interested" in hosting the group.

Police in Houston arrested 10 Occupy protesters Tuesday after they refused to remove a tarp from their encampment near City Hall, the Houston Chronicle said.

© 2011 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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