By Miriam Raftery
Mike Garcia of La Mesa, a former mortgage industry insider who joined the Occupy movement, was profiled last week in ECM. This week, he stated in a press conference this week that many who participated in early marches protesting corporate power and bank bail-outs told him they have not returned due to fear of being arrested.
A local photographer documenting the Occupy story indicated to ECM that she no longer brings expensive camera gear due to fear of inadvertently being caught up in the unrest and having her equipment damaged.
Police, following orders to enforce a previously rarely used law, have arrested or detained people for things that would be legal most anywhere else, particularly on other public property: sitting in a chair, setting up a Christmas tree, using a table to register voters, and even carrying a too-large flagpole.
“The one with the loudspeaker told us that we had 7 minutes to evacuate the plaza, but they started to move in much sooner than that and [started] grabbing and beating people, and jumping and walking on tents with people still in them,” Ward said. “"I woke the other girl up and we decided to get out of there. “ While walking up steps to exit, she said an officer struck her with a baton three times on her back and buttocks. After losing feeling and suffering swelling, she said she visited the VA and another medical clinic. “It was diagnosed as nerve damage, tissue damage, a dislocated vertebrae disc, and 2 serious hematomas. I cannot walk normally for a distance without a cane or wheelchair.”
Police dispute at least one detail of her incident. SDPD “is not aware of any reports that batons were used upon demonstrators,” said Lt. Brown, adding that the Department could not discuss any case in which legal action has been filed.
As for questions of force at Occupy events overall, Lt. Brown asserted that members of the San Diego Police Department “only use that force which is necessary to affect an arrest. All complaints and allegations of police misconduct are investigated. All arrests have followed warnings to cease an activity, move an object etc (whatever is appropriate for the violation) before arrests have been made…unless an emergency situation existed (we have broken up fights between demonstrators, arrested demonstrators for battering each other , etc.” she wrote in an e-mail response to ECM.
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