Posted 5:49 PM 10/9/2013 : TPD and immigration activists respond to traffic stop dispute
TUCSON- A routine traffic stop in Tucson has turned into a heated controversy between Tucson Police and immigration activists.
On Tuesday night just before 7pm, TPD pulled over a car with two men inside because the license plate light was turned off. The two men were unable to provide TPD with a license or ID, a misdemeanor which results in vehicle impoundment.
State law also required TPD to do an immigration check, which revealed the two men are undocumented immigrants. TPD called border patrol to the scene and that is when the chaos started to ensue.
Nearly 100 protesters gathered around the scene and TPD used pepper spray to break up the crowd. Within an hour, the two men, as well as two women, were all detained by Border Patrol.
On Wednesday, immigration activists held a press conference at Southside Presbyterian Church where the traffic stop took place. They say no where in SB 1070 does it say TPD should call border patrol. They're asking TPD to stop calling border patrol and ICE, impounding vehicles, and detaining and interrogating passengers.
If Chief Roberto Villasenor doesn't make an announcement by October 22 saying he plans to implement those changes, the activists plan to ask the city to fire Villasenor.
"We demand there be a lot of community pressure so that the city council and city manager put pressure on the police department to implement the community's recommendations that we have been asking for over the last year," says Raul Alcarez, who helped organize the press conference.
Ramon Reyes, 13, is the son of one of the men detained, Agustin Reyes. He fought back tears at the press conference Wednesday when he expressed how important his father is to him. He says his father is a single dad who has raised him since age 2. "My father is a most generous person, he gives me everything I need, he helps everyone," Reyes says. "Please give him back."
At another press conference Wednesday afternoon at TPD headquarters, Villasenor responded, saying he doesn't support SB 1070, but his officers have to follow the law and they did nothing wrong. "I understand their frustration, but I follow the law," Villasenor says. "They can demand those things, but I'm not going to go against state law. These are the problems I talked about when SB 1070 was first discussed. I talked about how it was going to put us at odds with the community."
Villasenor also addressed complaints about TPD officers responding violently to what the protesters are calling a peaceful protest. "You will see right then and there, people are pushing and grabbing onto police officers, so it wasn't completely an issue of officers going after people, it was officers responding to physical aggression," Villasenor says.
Besides the two men in the car, two women were also detained by border patrol at the incident. UA grad student Mari Galup was released Wednesday afternoon. Community leader Rosa Leal is still detained.
Villasenor says TPD will be conducting a review of the incident. The ACLU is also requesting an investigation by the federal government, regarding the actions of border patrol officers at the scene.
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