October 12, 2004
Law enforcement is bracing for thousands of demonstrators and authorities say they are prepared to make several hundred arrests as protesters from throughout the country converge on Tempe for Wednesday’s presidential debate.
Police are stocking up on plastic "zip-tie" handcuffs and plan on using secured buses to transport disobedient activists to Maricopa County’s Madison Street Jail in Phoenix.
Demonstrators also are being warned not to confront the heavily armed security forces who will be dressed in riot gear.
"Don’t agitate police or make comments about hurting people or carrying out any other threats," said Tempe police Sgt. Dan Masters. "The Secret Service is a lot less tolerant than we are."
Although police do not have an official estimate of how many people could turn out, he said they have been working to gather intelligence on political groups demonstrating in the Valley this week.
"We are hoping for the best but planning for the worst," Masters said. "But part of our job is to support the people protesting."
He said police will arrest protesters who block sidewalks, business entrances or public streets.
Organizations ranging from teachers unions to anarchists plan on using the international media attention to call attention to their various causes. Die-ins, rallies and marches are being scheduled, as some groups prepare for peaceful demonstration while others prepare for violent clashes.
"In the past I have seen peaceful anarchist rallies physically broken up by police," said Drew Sullivan, a member of the Phoenix Anarchist Coalition and Tempe business owner. "So, based on that history, there is a lot of ill will."
The anarchist coalition has had a history of violent runins with the police department, including confrontation during a May Day rally three years ago in downtown Tempe. Since then police have closely monitored the group’s Web site and movements.
Police know of the coalition’s intention, but said they will not single them out or change their strategy because of their participation, Masters said.
Sue Hilderbrand, a spokeswoman for the Oct. 13 Alliance, said her organization has been talking with local police and expects a peaceful week of events.
The alliance, which is made up of a number of divergent political groups, has been planning to hold a large rally Wednesday followed by a march before the debate starts.
"We are not planning anything or planning on doing anything that we could be arrested for," she said.
In case of arrests, Hilderbrand said she has been working with the Phoenix Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and will have people off-site who can help get protesters out of jail.
"I have seen police arrest a lot of people just for stepping into the streets," she said.
The alliance will gather in Daley Park near Broadway Road and Mill Avenue before marching to the Student Recreation Complex intramural fields on the south side of the Arizona State University campus.
For a complete list of events sponsored by the alliance or affiliated groups go to: www.oct13alliance.org.