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Jan 1, 20

Charges Dropped Against the #Tucson12, Arrested After Protest Outside Of Pima County Jail

Statement from the Tucson Anti-Repression Committee on charges being dropped against the #Tucson12. To listen to an interview about the case, see this episode of This Is America.

During the week of December 8th, the Arizona Superior Court granted a motion, filed by the prosecution, to dismiss felony riot charges against twelve individuals arrested following a protest outside of the Pima County Detention Center in August.

Law enforcement, who alleged that demonstrators set off fireworks outside the jail, did not issue dispersal orders or interact with the demonstrators during the protest. Instead, over a dozen Pima County Sheriff’s Department officers used aerial surveillance to identify a group of people on the Santa Cruz River Park Trail nearly a mile from the detention complex and arrested all of them, as well as two bicyclists almost two miles away.  Those arrested were each charged with felony riot, which carries a two and a half year maximum penalty.

“These extreme charges for making noise on the sidewalk suggest that Sheriff [Mark] Napier and his officers are working to stifle protest at a time when abuses of the department are beginning to be more widely noticed,” said Brittany Johnson, a defendant. Just this year, two men – David Maxwell and Francisco Ruiz – were killed by Sheriff’s Department officers in the Pima County jail in what they referred to as “use-of-force encounters.” In September, Pima County Sheriff’s officers were caught on video brutally assaulting a teenager, who is a quadruple amputee, in a group home, and beat and arrested another teenager who was recording the abuse.

“After subjecting these twelve people to three months of uncertainty, court dates, and thousands of dollars of legal fees, we are relieved that the county has given up on the prosecution of this ridiculous case,” said Glen Frieden, a supporter, “But the horrors of incarceration and policing in Pima County continue unaddressed.”

The protest was a noise demonstration, which have long been used to show solidarity with those confined to jails and prisons–the music and rhythms allow incarcerated individuals, who often can’t see the protesters, to hear that they are present. “Demonstrations like this are a natural response to this country’s inhumane system of incarceration, which inflicts suffering especially on communities of color, as well as on all working class people, who frequently can’t afford bail and are held until their court dates,” Johnson added. According to Arizona law, trials can be scheduled up to 120 days, or four months, after an initial arrest.

This demonstration was not the first outside of the Pima County Detention Complex. In August 2018, protestors called for an end to collaboration between jail officials and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Sheriff Napier removed the ICE desk at the jail in October 2018, but jail employees and the Pima County Sheriff continue to actively collaborate with federal immigration officials.

“The Sheriff’s Department may be taking their cues from agencies around the country who are increasingly using riot charges as a way to quell dissent,” added Frieden, “But we are not deterred. As long as people are locked away in jails and prisons, others will stand up to let those inside know they are not forgotten.”

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