First, the cops are trying to divide the community. They use classic red-baiting and anarchist fear-mongering tactics to attempt to convince locals and business owners to support a police assault on people who think that fallow land should not remain so merely because some Canadian land speculator wants to keep some property unused. They don't say it, but it is likely that they continue to be threatened by the level of support that local anarchists have developed in Tempe, perhaps most visibly displayed during 2010's anti-SB1070 organizing, neighborhood assemblies, march and protests. Hundreds came out then, unafraid of the fact that anarchists were organizing. Second, we can boil down the cops' argument to this: "we don't want to look bad attacking people who want to use unused land (after all, we are the defenders of property first and foremost), so we want to make sure that only people who will look bad on camera -- anarchists -- are present for the police attack". You know what, cops? There's an easy way to avoid looking bad attacking people trying to use empty corporate land for community purposes: don't attack them. I know that's hard for cops to do, being that they are a violent bunch of thugs. But, who are the defenders of community? The "anarchists" who want to create a commons or the cops who attack the community in defense of corporate property?
A few other interesting points: this property is controlled and left unused by the same company that owns Zuccotti Park. Also, cops have been visiting local businesses to get them to oppose the occupation. Another is that Tempe PD bike cops, which Officer Pittam used to be part of, got training from the Eugene PD after the first Tempe May Day protest, which they deployed the following year in brutal fashion, as is their general tendency. This was facilitated by the nationalization of local policing that has generally prevailed under the post-9/11 regime. And the TPD has tried this scare-mongering before. Note that Pittam himself is now a part of the "Homeland Defense Unit". What "homeland"? Unused corporate property homeland? What they want is for us to leave that property empty until some out of town land-speculating company can finally make a profit.
For the total expropriation of the capitalist class. Also, Pittam needs an editor.
Derek Pittam with the Tempe Police Department asked that I share the following information with you as your neighborhoods are closest in proximity to the area. Please contact Derek at Derek_pittam@tempe.gov or I with any questions.
I write this to you because as you know my career has led me to have a close relationship with the residents and businesses in and about the downtown Tempe area. In fact, several years ago, the Maple Ash community honored me with a “Friend of Community” award. Community members have always known that I am aggressively proactive on issues of crime prevention. This is no different, and I am very concerned that the planners of this event have not disclosed important information in their quest to gain the support of local residents and businesses.
I know the flyer (above) looks and sounds harmless right? Well anarchists looked like this (photo below) the last time they planned an event surrounding “May Day” in downtown Tempe.
Now I know that some may see the photo and then look at the flyer above to find no correlation. One might think that law enforcement is even taking a “cheap shot” because after all this event will be garden building…right?…it’s green…it’s local…it’s hip…it’s taking a vacant brown field and making it beautiful…why would the police be concerned? Well despite the nice flyers and excellent planning to get local residents and businesses to show support and even commit to participation, the planners of this event forgot to do something… or maybe they did not forget.
At the time of writing this email, no planner for this event has contacted a private property owner or management group of vacant land within the downtown Tempe area to ask permission to conduct such an event. No planner of this event has contacted the appropriate city staff to inquire about proper permitting or permissions needed to do this event. That’s a problem and that is why I now have concern as it relates to community members and businesses who would like to participate.
Basically, this activity is known is “guerilla gardening” and is not new. It has picked up steam with the Occupy movement and is usually done by seizing and occupying “privately owned” property.
Upon public safety learning that no property owner/management company within the downtown Tempe community has approved of this planned activity, subsequently many downtown property responsible persons have signed “Authority to Arrest” letters. This allows police to arrest for trespassing without the property’s responsible person having to be present. As a part of our duty to protect the rights and privileges of *all persons*, the Tempe Police Department is prepared to enforce certain laws against those who believe their own personal liberties supersede the liberties of others.
Why do I think the anarchist organizers are planning to knowingly engage in criminal activity? Well despite pointing out the above obvious issue, there are other indicators. On 4/23/12, Modern Times Magazine reported the location for this event in an online article.
Ironically, police had already been working with the local property management for this specific location outlined in the above article several weeks prior. The property management confirmed that this planned activity received no permissions from the owners to take place on this property. In response, property management subsequently posted “no trespassing” signs on the property after the signing an “Authority to Arrest” letter. Not long after, this post appeared of the event’s Facebook page:
In response to your no trespassing signs, we say “if it’s vacant, take it!"*
The signs on this lot, as of today, have been knocked down and destroyed by unknown persons.
Not to be overtly accusatory toward the planners of this event as responsible for this criminal damage, but it is coincidental and only raises my concerns that anarchist planners for this event could be anticipating conflict. After all, staging events that force the police to take enforcement action police is how anarchists hope to erode community support for local police departments. Anarchists want to place police in a position so they can say in a clever sound bite, “See we told you so… the cops are here to protect the interests of the wealthy!” In actuality, police would provide the exact same enforcement action to assist any person exercising lawful standing regardless of their of socio-economic status. These are well known anarchist tactics that I am all too familiar with.
In conclusion, researching other “guerilla gardening” actions planned by anarchists in other cities, the goal is to engage in civil disobedience (as seen in Santa Cruz, CA in December of 2011) . In other words, due to the liability concerns of property owners surrounding these “un-insured” actions, the property owners do not have the chance to be supportive of such an event without certain guarantees from the organizers, therefore with property owner participation exclusion from the event planning, conflict is evitable with police and/or property holder.
Where this tactic meets the goals of the anarchist, it may not be in the best interests of the local law abiding citizen who thought they were merely showing up for a community building event where a garden or park was being built.
Again, I send this to you Shauna for informational purposes to forward to anyone within the community that you feel may be affected by this planned event. This way, public safety has expressed its concern with the community and therefore allows each community member or business to make a decision based on “free agency” as to whether they will participate or support such an event.
Derek Pittam #14555
Homeland Defense Unit
Tempe Police Department