PHOENIX — Phoenix police on Tuesday voided a criminal citation they issued to a local activist one day earlier when she approached officers about saving a tent from disposal during a homeless encampment cleanup.
Stacey Champion was cited Monday for a misdemeanor charge of crossing a police line and ordered to appear in municipal court later this month.
"After considering the totality of the circumstances, it was determined to be in the interest of justice to void the citation," a Phoenix police spokeswoman said in an email.
Champion was in the area of 12th Avenue and Madison Street Monday morning to capture video and photos of the city sweep in the area near the human services campus. City workers do their cleanup three times a week. Hundreds of unsheltered people move their tents, beds, and their belongings as the city disposal crews move down the streets.
Champion, who frequently visits the camps with supplies for unsheltered people, captured part of her police interaction on video and posted the clips on Twitter.
In one video, Champion is seen inside a cleanup area, which has been cordoned off with yellow crime scene tape. She approached officers asking them not to throw away one man's "stuff." Champion told ABC15 the man had been taken to the hospital Monday morning and had not returned in time to remove his tent and belongings for the cleaning.
Two officers told Champion she needed to move outside of the police tape line. On the video, she indicated she would comply, and she moved to the outside of the tape line within 30 seconds. Officers follow Champion and ask for her ID. Officers told the activist she was being detained for crossing a police line, and one officer reached toward Champion's cell phone, which she was using to record the interaction.
"They tried to grab my phone, they tried to grab my camera," Champion told ABC15. "They put my hands behind my back, then I finally gave them my driver's license. I was read my rights and threatened with arrest."
Officers initially issued Champion a criminal citation for a misdemeanor charge of crossing a police line. Tuesday police supervisors voided the citation, so Champion will not face criminal prosecution for her actions.
Phoenix's cleanups of downtown homeless encampments have been controversial, and the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating whether or not the city is unconstitutionally seizing items belonging to people who are homeless.
In response to ABC15's request for comment Monday, a Phoenix police spokeswoman emailed this statement:
"The Phoenix Police Department assists with security when the city of Phoenix Streets Department conducts cleanups in the downtown area. The cleanups involve heavy machinery and large trucks which could pose a safety risk to pedestrians or motorists. Police tape is put up to secure the area being worked on and to keep the public out of harm’s way. No personal property was discarded during today’s cleanup."