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'Patience Wore Thin:' Protest Over Officer Shooting Breaks Out At Tempe City Hall

STEVE GOLDSTEIN: The Tempe City Council has approved a new cell phone ban for drivers, but that was not the most controversial aspect of last night's meeting, as it ultimately turned into a protest that spilled outside City Hall. With us to talk about what happened is Paulina Pineda of The Arizona Republic, who was at that meeting. Paulina, good morning.

PAULINA PINEDA: Good morning.

GOLDSTEIN: So what brought about the controversy? We know that there had been a tragic shooting by Tempe police. How did it build to what happened last night?

PINEDA: Protesters showed up to the last council meeting, demanding that the city council and city manager fire police chief Sylvia Moir and the officer who fatally shot 14-year-old Antonio Arce on January 15th. That public comment at that meeting lasted about three hours, and it got really rowdy and at the end, they promised, "We'll be back next meeting." And sure enough, they did. They came back yesterday to the council meeting. I'd say it's probably a smaller group than the last time, but they were there early before the meeting. They had food being served for her supporters. They were even selling merchandise to raise money for the Arce family, and then they made their way into the council meeting, expecting to speak to the council and express frustration with the police investigation and to, again, urge the council to take action on the police chief firing.

GOLDSTEIN: Well as you wrote, it sounded as though things were relatively calm and then there were things like zoning issues that just — the meeting seemed to drag on and protesters were concerned they wouldn't be heard.

PINEDA: Yeah. So there was a pretty lengthy agenda yesterday. There were several public hearing items — two big ticket items they were voting on and a zoning case, in particular, took more than an hour to discuss and debate, and protesters were relatively quiet throughout the, you know, the hour-long discussion. There were a few times where they started chanting or snapping. The mayor warned them to quiet down or they would be removed. And then after they took the vote and moved onto the next agenda item, I think protesters, you know, their patience wore thin. They had already been waiting for two hours to speak. There were still several items left on the agenda, and they felt like they weren't going to get their opportunity and they started chanting. They were holding signs. They were getting up, kind of getting closer and closer to the dais. And the mayor and council decided to, instead, recess and come back when things were a little quieter.

GOLDSTEIN: Has the city council taken any serious steps yet, and what would the protesters want the council to do?

PINEDA: So the protesters have asked for several things. They've asked for the police chief to be fired and for the officer who shot Arce to be fired. They've also asked the city council to investigate police department policies, use of force, de-escalation training, things like that, that they say have led to shootings like this of young people of color. And the city council has really taken a backseat role. Because of the form of government, where it's really the city manager who is the chief executive there, the city council's hands are kind of tied. They don't have the power to directly fire the police chief or any city employee that they don't appoint. They could indirectly do it by firing the city manager. But so far the city council has been relatively quiet. They did offer their condolences to the family yesterday, and I think that kind of appeased protesters at the beginning of the meeting because they felt that the last meeting in January, that the issue was completely ignored.

GOLDSTEIN: Alright, that is Paulina Pineda of the Arizona Republic. Paulina, thanks for a few minutes of your time today.

PINEDA: Thanks so much for having me.

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Steve Goldstein was a host at KJZZ from 1997 to 2022.