- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 16, 2015

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - A small downtown Tucson park where a group of homeless campers slept has been shut down indefinitely.

City officials closed the park on Sunday after weeks of complaints about drug and alcohol use at the park. The City Council will also consider a new ordinance that would ban camping in public spaces.

In a memo to Tucson’s police chief, Parks and Recreation Director Fred Gray said the closure was in the interest of public health and safety. He said police have made more than 60 arrests at the park in the past three months, including for assault, drugs and alcohol violations.

“In addition to this information, my own staff members who have been tasked with cleaning and maintaining the park have reported to me that they are concerned for their safety, and the safety of the general public, based on their observations and experiences in the park while performing their duties,” Gray wrote.

Veinte de Agosto Park had been home to an encampment whose members used large wooden pods to sleep in but who were evicted in March. The pods were removed and have been converted to bike trailers, camp organizer Jon McLane said. McLane said the protesters planned on moving back into the park in the future.

The camp was a spinoff of the Occupy movement. Protesters lived on the sidewalks of the park next to government buildings, restaurants and boutiques in so-called dream pods and tents, protesting local ordinances they say unfairly target the homeless.

The battle between the campers and the city has made its way to federal court. In March, Judge David C. Bury scolded city attorneys for misinterpreting an order he issued banning a rule that allowed homeless people to carry only three small belongings when on city sidewalks. The city had said that Bury’s order prohibited it from removing the campers, an assertion Bury said was incorrect.

The city began issuing notices at the park for removal the next day, and the campers left a few days later, only to return again.

The City Council also briefly considered a new ordinance banning urban camping, but delayed a vote. The council is scheduled to revisit the ordinance during its July 7 meeting.

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