Tempe PD Harass Citizen Journalists (Video)
Sunday afternoon, a group of fifty local residents gathered near the corner of Ash and University in Tempe to plant a garden on a vacant commercial lot. Tempe Police Department showed up in force to prevent them from doing so and handcuffed and detained one man who walked to the top of a neighboring parking structure to take photos. The detainment was captured on video by local citizen journalist, Michelle Lewis, who was also harassed repeatedly on video by Tempe Police officers.
The land on the corner of Ash and University is owned by Brookfield, which just happens to be the same firm who owns Zucotti Park in New York City, where last year's Occupy Wall Street protests were based before NYPD evicted them.
Michelle was recording live on her mobile phone to Ustream while she and Mickey were at the top of the parking garage next door. The parking garage is owned by Chase Bank and is used for employee parking. At seven levels high, it provides a nice vantage point to overlook the vacant lot.
"Detained by Tempe Police Department for taking pictures & video footage. We were there to take pics of local businesses & citizens planting a garden." - Michelle Lewis
As seen in her video, a Tempe police officer was on the seventh level (the top of the garage) when they went up the northeast stairwell to take photos and video. The officer is seen approaching them aggressively demanding ID and when Mickey didn't produce it immediately, the officer grabbed his hands and cuffed them behind his backpack. And by "immediately," Mickey did not get a chance to reach into his pocket to produce it.
"Coming down from roof after being detained. Mickey was still in handcuffs." - Michelle Lewis
Apparently Michelle was allowed to leave, and the second video shows her commenting as she descended the stairwell. At the bottom, she shows a partially broken sign which only states that people are not allowed to hand out advertisements. The police officer at the bottom was unable to show her any further signage.
The video concludes with Mickey coming down the stairs and meeting Michelle at the sidewalk where they walk to meet the rest of the group on University Avenue. Mickey was apparently let off with a warning.
Tempe Police single out and prevent Michelle from walking down the public sidewalk while letting others pass.
The third video in the series shows Michelle being blocked from walking down a section of the public sidewalk facing University Avenue by an officer who deemed that she must remain a safe distance from the others. At the same time, the officer was allowing passersby to proceed through the same area.
Unfortunately, I missed the event on Sunday afternoon but have posted below a series of photos and videos taken by citizen journalists throughout the day. However, after watching the videos posted by Michelle, I decided to swing by the site today and see if no trespassing signs were posted and to see if there was anything left of the garden.
I parked in a nearby lot and walked along Ash Ave toward the Chase parking garage. I took a few photos of the nearby condominium tower that was finally finished. I noticed that there were three stairwells to the 720 Ash Ave structure. One was on the southwest side next to a vehicle entrance, one was in the center east side of the building next to the elevators, and the third was the northeast stairwell used by Michelle and Mickey in the video.
I decided to take the center stairwell and walk to the top. It was a nice day and the exercise would be good for me. I took a photo of the no peddling sign at the bottom of the stairs. The sign was facing the street but not real obvious to people walking to the elevators. It was on the column way off to the left side away from the main sidewalk.
I proceeded up the stairs, going around and around. I went past the elevated crosswalk and went to the top floor. Actually there were two more flights going to the elevator mechanical room but there was a gate blocking the way. I did not observe any further signage but I really was not looking. I was too busy keeping from panting by the sixth floor. Clearly I need to do this more often.
I walked around the seventh level in the sunlight and took a number of photos of the area where the police officer accosted them and photographed more of the scenery around the building. It really wasn't a half bad view. No wonder they were up there. I would have too. Parking structures are a popular place for photojournalists to get a bird's eye view of the action. They use them all the time, as have I numerous times in the past.
Note the conspicuous lack of police presence on a Monday afternoon to protect the empty lot from people taking a shortcut across it. I thought the tire tracks from the cop cars the day before were a nice touch. They made a bigger mess than everyone else put together.
After spending several minutes taking in the view, I proceeded to exit down the northeast stairwell. As I hit the first landing I turned around for a backwards shot and was surprised to see a small green "No Trespassing" sign on the rail at the top and well to the right of the stairwell. I took a shot of it and kept going down, looking for more. I figured there must be one on every level.
To my further surprise, there weren't any more until I hit the very first landing at the bottom. It, however, did not say "No Trespassing." Like the one at the top, it was small and unobtrusively placed on the landing rail in the dark shadows. I took a shot of it and then walked out of the garage and took several shots looking back and up. You can actually spot the sign on Michelle's second video at 8:46. But you better look closely or you will miss it.
Exiting the structure, I also took a shot of the partially broken "No Peddling" sign on the concrete outer column facing the street. There was not a "No Trespassing" style sign near it. In fact, if you were to walk into the garage and proceed to the first level instead of bounding up the stairs, you would not see one at all.
After leaving the structure, I walked around to University Avenue and was pleasantly surprised to see the sidewalk chalk art still intact. I then saw the garden and the flowers which had been planted on the opposite side of the light rail tracks. It still looked good.
So why did I go back? I wanted to see if the Tempe Police had the grounds to be so aggressive toward the protestors and the people filming it. Technically, you could say that the parking garage was posted as being off limits but the signage was small and not placed well. I don't even remember seeing any on the center stairwell but maybe it was there and I did not see it because I was also in a hurry, just like every other garage I run into to get good shots from up above. Maybe I will have to go back and double check.
Regardless, it looks to me like the Tempe officers were clearly unprofessional in their approach to the people around them. It would have been simple enough to give a warning and patiently escort them out of the garage. Even the Phoenix Police Department is professional enough to do that in spite of arbitrarily enforcing rules for Occupy Phoenix last year. I'm not holding them up as a model of great behavior either, but by comparison, they are downright civil.
If you would like to see my photo album of what I found as I walked around, you can see it here:
Here are further articles, photos, videos, and comments which will help give some context to the event:
Tempe Police Homeland Defense Unit detective issues anti-anarchist letter ahead of "Take Back the Commons" event for 4/29/12
Michelle Lewis's Photos
Phoenix May Day Action Committee's Photos
Amanda Lynn's Photos
Protesters want parks, not empty lots
Resistance is Fertile Band video
From Joya Scott:
Today's park-building action in Tempe was a great success! Thanks to everyone who came out and helped. (And there were no arrests, although the cops did menace and harass us and detain a couple of ten-year-olds for a while... Ah, Tempe's finest.)
From May Day Action Committee:
"What an awesome action today! About 50 people of all ages gathered to take back the commons and start building a community park in one of the abandoned spaces of capitalism. We met at 11am to find that the Tempe police had already moved in on the big ugly lot owned by Brookfield Properties (a multinational corporation) that has sat vacant and fallow for years. The cops threatened us with arrest if we beautified that area--or even set foot on it. Spirits were high, however, and after a raucous mini-protest and street concert, we simply moved over into the the other vacant area on on University just to the west. There, we planted, set up park benches, learned how to make seed bombs, built a raised vegetable bed, and more. We grilled veggie burgers and shared food, sang songs and beat drums. Neighbors and passersby, unlike the cops, we excited to see what we were up to and some even joined in on the spot! A group plans to organize to help tend the garden from here on out--if you can help, let us know.
lol @ fox not showing the development of the land that actually was worked on. A lot of people put in some hard word today. I guess it didn't fit the narrative they wanted. Shocking. http://www.myfoxphoenix.com/dpp/news/local/tempe/protesters-want-parks-n...
Ah, good old local media. Show up for five minutes, report 10% of the story as if it's the whole thing, and get chunks of even that little part wrong. (We don't want Brookfield to develop the land--we want to build a park on it!)
We will be Livestreaming today's "Resistance is Fertile" event in downtown Tempe (meeting up at University and Farmer).