Richard Verstegan 5 a.m., March 12
Man Choked, Arrested at Occupy San Diego
A 28-year-old man was choked and arrested at around 2:35 this morning on the Civic Center Plaza after police reportedly told him to exit his sleeping bag and sit up, inciting accusations of police brutality from onlookers.
Eyewitness Julie (she declined to provide a last name) reports the events as follows:
“I have been involved with the Occupy San Diego movement since October 7th, 2011. I have not missed a 24 hour period since the beginning of this protest, and I have spent over a dozen nights at the Civic Center. Last night at Civic Center Plaza I witnessed unbelievable brutality committed against a good friend, Bob O’Grady. Thankfully the entire incident was caught on film.
“…around 10:30 or 11:00 P.M I was distraught about the weakened morale of our Occupation and decided to take a stand. I went to the middle of Civic Center Plaza and laid down underneath an American flag next to a protestor sitting on the stairs. At one point I fell asleep and was woken up by a police officer. He said ‘Excuse me ma’am! You have to sit up. That’s it, just sit up.’ His tone was not overly confrontational, and he walked away. I sat for a while, and then a few more protesters showed up, so I laid back down.
“I was in the plaza for about 3 hours, laying down most of the time, and as the night wore on more people came into the Civic Center Plaza. It was the largest group we have had in the Civic Center that late in quite some time. Other people laid down. We sat, we talked about why we were there and future plans for our Occupations. It felt liberating. Police continually walked by and glared at us. At one point a cop car did a quick and deliberate donut in the Civic Center. We ignored it. We felt safe in our group of 8 or 9 protesters.
“At around 2:30AM my friend Robert walked into the Civic Center Plaza. He went about 30 feet away from our group and laid out a sleeping bag. He zipped himself in and stayed still. I was laying down at the time. Within 4 minutes two cops approached him, and told him to get up. He asked why. They didn’t answer. They said he couldn’t be in a sleeping bag, so he unzipped himself and laid on top of it. They said he couldn’t be laying down in a sleeping bag, so he sat up. Then they told him to stand up. He asked why. I continually asked the police what laws he was violating. They would not answer. The other people I was with also asked questions, demanded answers and were given none.
“As Bob was sitting on his sleeping bag in the process of standing up the cops grabbed him and put him under arrest. Three cops had him and he was saying ‘I’m up! I’m up! I’m not resisting!’ when one cop decided to put him in a choke-hold and take him to the ground. The cop choked him for over 30 seconds while he was on the ground, until Bob literally turned blue. We were screaming at the cops telling him to stop. The cop was visibly suffocating Bob and it was absolutely terrifying. It was blatant police brutality, and excessive force. They cops were on top of him crushing him, while one of them choked him for half a minute. There is nothing okay about this. This is on video.
"They continued to hold him on the ground and the pulled him away in handcuffs, holding his arms as high as they could behind his back inflicting the most pain they possibly could on him. He screamed in pain, and told the cops they were hurting him and they did not stop. They walked him over a minute in this painful position, twisting his hands, arms, shoulders and neck.”
Photographer Adam Plantz, who filmed the above YouTube clip, writes, “I took an oath to protect people 15 years ago. Just because I am not active military anymore doesn't mean I can't protect the People still. My weapon now instead of my firearm is my camera. I have been volunteering my time at the San Diego Civic Center Plaza with the Occupy San Diego movement constantly since I heard about the police raid on the occupiers on October 28, 2011.
“After a successful day celebrating Veteran’s Day with Occupy San Diego, me and several others congregated in the plaza to sit and enjoy conversation underneath the United States flag… At about 2:45 a.m., Bob O’Grady was arrested in the San Diego Civic Center Plaza for laying inside of his sleeping bag to stay warm. SDPD used excessive force to apprehend Bob. An unnamed SDPD officer is caught on video using a choking technique I never knew was legal in the continuum of force ladder.”
After being apprehended by police, O’Grady was found to be in possession of narcotics without a prescription and was arrested.
O’Grady’s $5000 bail has been posted with donated money.
On Tuesday, attorneys representing Occupy San Diego held a press conference at the Civic Center Plaza to announce their intention to file a request on Friday for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the City of San Diego and the San Diego Police Department for violating the First Amendment rights of protestors.
The spokespersons called the city ordinance — San Diego Municipal Code Section 54.0110 (Encroachment), which allows police to selectively cite persons placing any item on public property — unconstitutional.
More like this:
- Allegations of Police Brutality at Occupy San Diego — Jan. 2, 2012
- Occupy San Diego Protester Joins Hunger Strike in Response to Alleged Police Brutality — Dec. 6, 2011
- Occupy San Diego Activist Arrested Over Voter Registration Table — Nov. 29, 2011
- Occupy San Diego Responds to Raid, Inaugurates Occupy Mission Bay — Nov. 17, 2011
- Occupy San Diego Pushes Vendors to Return — Nov. 5, 2011