Saturday, May 01, 2010

Unlawful Arrest With Undue Force of Young Latino Man at May Day March In San Francisco

Today I witnessed the apparent illegal arrest with undue force of a young Latino protester in the May Day march in San Francisco. He was walking backwards and sideways on the side looking back at the marchers. We were on the second to last block of Mission before turning west and left to go to the City Plaza. We were on the side of the street with one way traffic only and all traffic was stopped on the street. We were all marching legally within the boundaries. The young man was very dark with curly black hair dressed in a brown shirt and dark jacket, maybe brown suede. He looked like he could be a student. 

There were about four young Anglo-American looking men or older boys who were taken by officers and lined up against a low wall with a cyclone fence. They were sitting there or being taken there. The young dark man was walking alone with a backback and carrying another bag, like a camera bag. There was nothing else in his hands. At no time was he threatening or aggressive in any way. He was marching peacefully with the others. 

A police officer ran up behind and pushed him violently, attempting to knock him off his feet. At the same time he grabbed his arm by the wrist, twisted it and pulled it up behind the young man. The young man screamed in pain and yelled, "Hey, I didn't do anything! I'm not doing anything!" as the officer proceeded to pull him by his arm and grabbed him around the neck with his other hand attempting to knock hm to the ground. The young man was crying out in pain, repeating that he "didn't do anything" and to "wait" while the officer slammed him against a tree. Two other officers ran up and grabbed him by the other arm. I could see that he was being pulled backwards by his twisted arm while another officer was pulling in the opposite direction, apparently for no other reason than to inflict pain. The young man was not resisting but he was trying to free his arm from the officer. Two other officers rushed him and knocked him to the cement where he hit his head as another officer fell on top of him with full force. At this time I could see that he was bruised and bleeding and looked very scared, on the ground with foru officers on top of him. He was silent and not resisting. Another officer began pulling items out of his backpack which he opened. This did not appear to be a legal search with due cause. 

Other officers appeared with billy clubs out and one pushed me violently from the curb. I hadn't moved during this time. I was about 3 feet from the young man from beginning to end. Another officer began pushing me off the curb so that I lost balance. I hadn't moved. I had a right to stand there. I had a right to march there. I was being pushed for taking pictures of the apparently unlawful arrest. The first officer who pushed me placed his face in front of my camera blocking the view of the arrest and screamed at me to "Get out of my face" as I was moving my camera away from him but he kept pushing his face chest into me in an intimidating manner. At the same time, another officer was pushing a young woman, another witness to the arrest and force and she pushed back and the exchange became heated. I explained to the officers that I was not only an eye-witness to arrest and brutalization of an innocent unarmed citizen and possibly a minor, and that I was also a published writer and a professor. I also explained that I was within my rights to take photographs of the arrest of a fellow protester. 

While this was going on, some people were urging people to clear the street and join the march. I gave my contact information as an eyewitness to one of the event monitors and joined the march which, by that time, had reached the rally at City Plaza. About forty officers were present, on bikes, motorcycles and on foot, lining the street and blocking the view as they lead about five young men away. The other four or five were Anglo American looking and were not brutalized in the same way as the young dark Latino -- at a legal march for immigrant worker rights and human rights for all.

I kept thinking of the march on the anniversary of Roe v.s. Wade, the "well dressed" young white man who was screaming at me that he wanted to kill me for my race and for my views. Where were the police then to deal with that assault and unlawful offense? Where were four officers knocking his head against the pavement? Can't imagine it, can you? I kept thinking of a young lawyer for an anti-nuke protest who was pushed, grabbed and knocked to the ground by four police officers who broke his glasses and had him in the same arm-hold and fear of having his arm broken, how he said that from that day after if a client says to him: "I didn't do anything" he would believe it. 

The march was also very emotional for me. I'm glad I was wearing sunglasses to hide my tears the entire length, remembering marches in those same streets and in Berkeley 40 years ago. I was 15, same age as many of those around me. The families were so beautiful, the orgullo was so powerful, the gente obreros are so brave and the lucha is so just. As an educator who teaches on border issues besides creative writing, it is painful to me that so many do not know their own history. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ought to be standard reading and test material for obtaining a passport or drivers license or any other "proof of citizenship." As a Native American, I say, know your history; act right or GIVE IT BACK!

And, Officers, please, unlearn your fascist ways. Another way of keeping the peace is possible.

All I could think of is that my son would have been there, walking along at the same place at this guy, the same height and weight and look. He could have been tackled from behind and had his arm pulled of the socket and had his head knocked against the pavement -- which could have killed him, all for doing nothing! All because he was there and looked Mexican while exercising his civil and political and moral rights.

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