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Oct 15, 2013 2:01 AM by Sean Mooney

Deportation protests strain TPD patrols in Tucson

TUCSON - Last Friday, two protests condemning the government's deportation program, "Operation Streamline", erupted at the same time, at two locations in the City of Tucson. When it was over 18 people were arrested and now face felony charges.

During the five hours the protests went on, nearly 100 Tucson Police Department Officers were dispatched to both locations. Tucson Police Public Information Officer, Sgt. Chris Widmer, says many of those officers were pulled from patrols throughout the city straining the department's ability to protect the residents of Tucson.

It all began Friday morning, at the Federal Courthouse downtown with several members of the group chaining themselves to an entrance gate. At the bus depot at Simpson and the freeway another large group of protesters arrived. Two cars moved in and blocked two buses attempting to leave the facility with 70 detainees on board.

It became an emergency situation for law enforcement, because the courthouse was on federal property, federal agencies handled the situation downtown. The Tucson Police Department was given the task of covering the bus station. Tucson Police Public Information Officer, Sgt. Chris Widmer, says many of those officers were pulled from patrols throughout the city, straining the department's ability to protect the residents of Tucson, "We're able to make adjustments, we're able to make sure we are ready to protect the citizens but something has to give," Widmer said, "where that give is, is our lower level calls, those have to wait to handle the high priority calls and to handle this situation."

And according to Widmer, during that five-hour span a priority call did come in while the demonstrations raged on, "One of our local area elementary schools went in to lockdown after reports of shots fired, we were able to get over 10 officers there to handle that situation, but again, something has to give there."

Dr. Roberto Rodriguez describes himself as a scholar/activist and says he is friends with many of the protesters. Rodriguez says their mission is beyond inconveniencing city residents, "When you talk about inconvenience, look at the government shutdown, you can blame President Obama, or the Democrats and Republicans, that's a thousand times more inconvenient than what happened the past week", said Rodriguez, "people are doing different things, they are conscious, they know they can go to jail, they can go to prison, some of them can get deported but that is the moral crisis point we are at right now."

According to the Tucson Police Department, there is also a large price to pay for these protests because when off-duty officers are brought in to work it costs taxpayers thousands of dollars.

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