5 Arrested after climbing 240-foot crane to hang banner in downtown Phoenix

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX -- Protesters climbed a construction crane to hang a banner in downtown Phoenix Wednesday evening and now they face criminal trespassing charges.

At approximately 6 p.m., Phoenix police officers responded to a construction site at Central Avenue and Jefferson Street. The manager of Hunt Construction told the officers that four people were climbing a 240-foot crane.

The climbers were protesting SB1070 and 287(g). According to Phoenix police spokesman Detective James Holmes, the climbers displayed a banner that read "Stop The Hate" at the top of the crane.

Holmes said approximately 30 Phoenix police officers and 25 firefighters had to be called to the area to shut down Central Avenue to ensure the safety of the climbers.

At approximately 7 p.m., the suspects began to dismantle the banner and climb from the crane. The four suspects were taken into custody as they reached the ground.

They were identified as Cesar Maxit, 34, of Argentina; Chelsea Ritter-Soronen, 23, of Missouri; Megan Swoboda, 40, of California; and Perea Dexter, 40, of Canada.

According to Holmes, officers learned that Julie Farris, 30, of Ohio, was a climbing instructor and had facilitated the act from the ground via two-way radio. She was also arrested.

Farris said she was not coordinating the incident. She said she explained to the officers that she has been a climber for a long time and was there to let the officers know what the other climbers were doing, what their plans were and all the safety procedures they were using.

Farris said the climbers weren't going to leave the banner up. They had planned to just unfurl it, send out their message then climb back down. However, she said they knew they would be arrested.

All five suspects were subsequently booked into jail.