I was just going to go to the vigil at 6pm with cocoa and hand warmers donated by SP-USA, but I was running behind and then, well, life happened. In between the incidental, and individual emergencies of my evening, I was simply going to drop the hand warmers and leave as I’d missed the vigil and had no cocoa. We had to get off the highway a mile away from the vigil due to police activity. I and E. got out of the car on the corner, as my son went to find a place to park, and stepped right into a hot mess.
The protesters were in the middle of an action, after marching from the vigil to where I got out. There was one other Legal Observer there at the time and he was not able to see everything, everywhere at once. So, after the obligatory, “Thank God you’re here!”, we got to work.
Once the action was finished, the organizers decided to take the highway access road shoulder back to the start point. We were followed all the way by at least 20 police cars of various jurisdictions as well as a line of officers marching directly behind us.
As we came to the crest of the road, which just happened to be the darkest section, the police asked us to move to the right so an ambulance could get through. One woman went to the left of the line of march to try and shoo folks to the right. Police yelled at her, she tried to explain what she was doing, they then tackled her against a concrete barrier and she fell behind a police car, where they arrested her. Folks on that side said they tazed her, but I didn’t see it, so I don’t know. I do know that she fell hard against that barrier. I also know that some mace was deployed, probably at her, as we all got a good whiff of it.
We made it back to the Mobil station start point, where there was a face off with the police. Suddenly a commotion started in the strip mall parking lot behind us, where many of the protesters cars were parked. The police followed and effectively blocked the group from re-entering the Mobil parking lot. Then the police line moved across the street to the strip mall lot, where they threw out 2 lines of police. Orders were given to disperse, but there was no where to go.
One young woman apparently was trying to leave and was chased down and tackled to the ground by a police officer. Kneeling on her back as he handcuffed her, he then turned to the line of protesters who’d followed and flipped them off with both hands. That was when he evidently realized he’d gotten Way out in front of the police line, though his fellow LEO’s moved pretty fast when they realized what he’d done and how far away he was with people in between officers and civilians. IF we were as violent as we’ve been depicted, things would have gone horribly, tragically wrong right then.
As it was, the protesters retreated away from the police trying to get through and the officer with the attitude arrested another woman who was trying to check if the first victim was ok.
Later, as we stood on the lot, police rushed the group hired by the laundry there as protection and arrested two men for unknown reasons. The girlfriend and an aunt of the victim were there tonight. The aunt became overcome by grief at one point and fainted. A nurse there rendered aid, but was then forcibly pushed aside so that police could surround the patient and do Nothing but flash their flashlights in her eyes. Not a remedy for fainting by the way. These are the same police who let the shooting victim lay unattended and bleeding out for 30 minutes the other night so our confidence in their first aid or even common humanity is not high. Thankfully, she recovered her senses and was able to rejoin the group.
By about 11pm, we’d been cleared from the area though not without one last assertion of police authority in that they’d only let people go out one exit of the parking lot and go one way on the road. Not towards the highway, but back through housing areas. People have learned hard lessons here and the “you can only go that way, but you must disperse.” has been used to cause folks to run right into police blockades on other intersections and blocks so if you are not “from here”, get to know the side roads.
Many thanks to E., B., T., and Stackizshort the live streamer on Ustream as well as the other live streamers. Also, heartfelt thanks to Tom, Sarah, Karl and Michael for pulling hard duty on Xmas Eve.