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Nearly 50 people were arrested this weekend during the first two days of the Occupy Phoenix protest in Margaret T. Hance Park and Cesar Chavez Plaza in downtown Phoenix.
The Occupy Phoenix protest is part of a larger “occupy” protest that began one month ago in New York City, fueled by complaints about corporate greed and the influence of corporations on government.
The protest has spread to cities across the United States and Europe, including the capital cities of Madrid and Rome.
Most of the Phoenix arrests came late Saturday night and early Sunday morning in Hance Park when about 40 protestors sat in a circle well after the park’s closing time of 10:30 p.m.
Starting in the late afternoon, several protest organizers met with City of Phoenix officials to try to negotiate protestors staying in the park over night.
These negotiations started in Hance Park but were later moved to the Lexington Hotel at North Central Avenue and East Portland Street.
According to Ezra Kaplan, a member of the protesters’ negotiation committee, the City said they were going to enforce the closing time and did not want to negotiate.
No one from Mayor Phil Gordon’s office was present at the negotiations.
There had been rumors earlier Saturday evening spurred by Twitter that Gordon would come down to the park to support the protesters if Phoenix police decided to begin arrests.
Gordon told the Downtown Devil Saturday night that he would support the people who were protesting against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Arizona Sen. Russell Pearce and SB 1070, not necessarily the Occupy Phoenix protesters.
Phoenix police officers gave the protestors several warnings – both individually and via a megaphone from a helicopter – to leave or risk being arrested.
The police did not start arresting the sitting protestors until about 12:20 a.m. (nearly two hours after the park officially closed), and the last protestors in the circle were arrested at about 12:55 a.m.
The aggressiveness of the arrests noticeably decreased as the arrests continued early Sunday morning. During the first several arrests, Phoenix police dressed in riot gear dragged off the protesters who refused to stand. At times, officers grasped protesters by limbs or the head to pull them from their seated positions.
Some people who were arrested later said they were stepped on, kicked and handcuffed too tightly.
As the arrests continued, however, many protestors stood up when the police asked and walked toward a police vehicle. Some were not handcuffed immediately.
“I didn’t think (the police) were exceedingly rough,” said arrested protester Christopher Broughton, who went on to say the conditions in the Fourth Avenue Jail (where the arrested protestors spent most of Sunday) were more bothersome than the Phoenix police.
All protestors were out of the park by around 1:15 a.m. Sunday morning, and police began preparing to leave by about 1:30 a.m.
Davin Wright, an EMT and volunteer medic with the protest, said the protesters did not present enough logistical difficulty to avoid arrest.
If more people were present, Wright said, the protesters would have had a better chance negotiating staying in the park overnight, because it eventually becomes too expensive to remove a large crowd.
There were only about 100 protesters at Hance Park when the arrests began; a far cry from the 2,000 people that crowded Cesar Chavez Plaza earlier on Saturday.
Despite the 45 arrests made in Hance Park Saturday night and early Sunday morning, Wright called the night a win for the protesters.
The protesters were able to make their point while remaining mostly peaceful and respectful and Phoenix police officers also remained generally peaceful throughout the night, Wright said.
“We want people to recognize that we are the good guys,” Wright said.
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When the protesters returned to Cesar Chavez Plaza on Sunday their numbers had dwindled drastically, with only around 130 protesters coming out for the second day.
At about 1:40 p.m., about 60 walked to the Fourth Avenue Jail where the protesters who were arrested late Saturday and early Sunday were being held.
After about 20 minutes of chanting, the protesters learned that standing on Fourth Avenue Jail land results in a security lockdown, meaning all visitation rights for legal council, family and friends are suspended.
At that time, they returned to Cesar Chavez Plaza where they stayed for the rest of the day, discussing the future of the Occupy Phoenix protest, the media and corporate greed, among other things.
Compared to Saturday’s raucous chanting and marching around the plaza, Sunday was much more reserved.
Energy began to pick up around 5:30 p.m. when the protesters who were arrested late Saturday and early Sunday returned to Cesar Chavez Plaza.
Most of the protesters were originally charged with third degree trespassing, but the charge was raised to first degree loitering, which has a maximum penalty of six months jail time, according to Arizona state documents.
At least three people were arrested Sunday evening. Cesar Chavez Plaza closes at 6 p.m., and one man – who was described by fellow protesters as a Marine Corps veteran – decided to sit in the plaza after it was closed.
Four Phoenix police officers arrested the man at about 7:20 p.m. by asking him to walk with them away from the rest of the protesters who were on the sidewalk nearby.
Two other men were arrested at around 8:20 p.m. after they stood in a crosswalk, waving an American flag and impeding traffic.
Protesters said they plan to continue throughout the week, and they hope to get more people through social media and fliers so there are even more people protesting next Saturday.
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Salvador Rodriguez contributed to this report.
Correction: October 17, 2011
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the arrested protesters’ charges were reduced from third-degree trespassing to first-degree loitering. While the change was reported accurately, the wording of the sentence implied first degree loitering carries a less severe punishment. Third degree trespassing can result in a maximum of 30-days jail time while first degree loitering can result in a maximum of 6 months in jail.