Occupy San Diego’s three-month anniversary on January 7 was a cause for celebration for dozens of activists who marched from Children’s Park to the Civic Center to participate in a rally. Activists, however, are calling the arrests of three demonstrators another black mark against the San Diego Police Department.
Stephanie Jennings, 51, a San Diego resident of 25 years and cofounder of Women Occupy, was among those incarcerated. Under her attorney’s advisement, Jennings described only bits and pieces of her arrest to the press earlier this week.
“It all happened very quickly,” said Jennings. “I was rehearsing with the Occupella chorus as the march approached the plaza. I went towards them to cheer and quickly noticed police tape going up around the marchers. At that point, Jennings said she knew she needed to rejoin her group. But before she could act, Jennings alleges SDPD Sgt. James Milano bumped into her.
“What I can tell you is that he did some pretty awful things. I was hurt, and I am seeing a physician because of it…. My treatment while incarcerated was also abhorrent.”
A YouTube video shows the tail end of Jennings’s arrest and, moments later, captures an inaudible exchange between Sgt. Milano and the other female arrested...apparently over the yellow tape’s separation of the female from her bicycle. Sgt. Milano shoves the female further behind the tape and then, seemingly angered by her remarks, reaches over the tape and yanks her off her feet, shoving her toward the ground. An officer then places a hand on Milano’s arm, in a cautionary gesture, while three other police arrest the woman as she lied on the ground.
“This was not one rough cop,” said Jennings. “[He] was out of control, lost his temper, and did not follow policy, but he is doing what somebody is telling him to do, and that is the problem. For the first time, you see people from every class, all colors and all ages, uniting together because our common interest are stronger than our individual interests, and that frightens the leaders.”
Michael Garcia, the night’s other detainee, said he was sitting in a chair passing out free-speech material and was arrested under an encroachment law.
Jennings, who is filing a formal complaint with the Citizens Review Board, is due in court on February 25. The charge against her is “battery committed against the person of a peace officer.”
Although attorney Bryan Pease thinks the charges are ridiculous and do not merit an indictment, Jennings faces a $10,000 fine. Earlier this week, Sgt. Milano’s police report remained incomplete, and SDPD personnel refused to comment on what they said could be a potential ongoing investigation.