Matt Potter 9:41 a.m., May 22
Occupy San Diego Responds to Raid, Inaugurates Occupy Mission Bay
Spokespersons representing Occupy San Diego held a 5 p.m. press conference at the Civic Center Plaza yesterday in response to a raid around 2 a.m. yesterday morning which resulted in ten arrests and the occupation area being cordoned off.
Mike Garcia, a 48-year-old drug-abuse counselor who has acted as a media liaison for Occupy San Diego said, “Other people can go out to the center and do as they please, as they’ve always done, but we‘re scrutinized. Every move that we make, we are threatened with police action. So it is completely disingenuous for the police department and city government to state that they are giving us a fair opportunity at exercising our right to free speech… We are ordinary, law-abiding citizens who are being treated like criminals.”
“When the police come in here and take us out, all it does is reenergize our movement,” said Ray Lutz, 54, an activist and 2010 Democratic Candidate for Congress in California's 52nd congressional district. “So in a way we appreciate it. We don’t want it to happen, but what we do know is that people say ‘this has gone too far’ and they come out… We ask for your support, because we need to put an end to this aggressive action by the police, this violent action, arresting people for trumped up charges. It has to stop… Join with us. Let’s put an end to this insanity in our country.”
“We are not about fighting the police and we do not want you to get the wrong idea here today,” said John Kenney, an Occupy San Diego media liason. “Everyday we’re about to have one of [our] huge movements, they come in and sweep us out of again. It does not stop us.”
“I’m not sure what I’m going to do come Friday because city council goes on break for two weeks until December 6. That’s about 30 days, which is a serious hunger strike. You get into risk factor territory.”
During the Wednesday morning raid, Michael Basillas, a 26-year-old City College student who has been a part of the Occupy San Diego movement since it began in early October, was in tears as he pleaded with police officers over a megaphone to look him in the eyes and acknowledge the protesters right to be there.
He was then arrested for a “noise complaint,” according to an officer on the scene.
Adam Plantz, a photo- and videographer, was tackled and nearly arrested while observing the events, which he recalls as follows:
“This morning at 2:11, I received a phone call from an occupier telling me that the San Diego Civic Center Plaza was being raided by the San Diego Sheriff’s Department and the San Diego Police Department. I quickly got dressed, jumped on my mountain bike and pedaled my way to the civic center from Golden Hills, San Diego.
“When I arrived I saw nearly 200 officers in riot gear, carrying pouches on their left legs, the exact same leg-pouches we used to store our gasmask. I ran over to join a small bunch of occupiers with familiar faces. After spending a few minutes with the small group of people, I noticed that there were several SDPD officer's heading in our direction. When the officer’s approached us, I started talking with the Sergeant about how I could prevent myself from being arrested. I told him that I noticed that you are pushing these people further and further away from the civic center than is necessary.
“I mentioned that we are two blocks away from the civic center, yet you are still pushing these people away. I asked the Sergeant what I should do to prevent myself from being arrested while I take pictures. He answers with, ‘Don’t sit on the sidewalk because, I will arrest you for impeding traffic on a business sidewalk.’ I responded mentioning that I wouldn’t sit on the sidewalk.
“As the words came out of my mouth something inside told me to press record on my video camera and keep it on my hip, and then it happened. The Sergeant turns around after walking away, and tells me to keep walking or he was going to arrest me. I responded back with, ‘I can’t stand here?’ As the words came out of my mouth I saw his body motion in my direction and I knew I was going to jail. I instantly yelled at my friend to take my camera, and tossed it in her direction.
“At that same moment I had three or four officer’s tackling me to the ground controlling my arms, yet demanding that I place my hands behind my back. I was completely non-resistant, my left leg extended in front of me, bent over at the waist, right leg bent behind me, and my arms being restricted by two people. All the while I hear in my ear, ‘Stop resisting.’ All I could say back is, ‘I am not trying to resist you, I just can’t move.’ After being handcuffed, searched, and placed in the back of the patrol car, I was given the option to either go to jail, or receive a citation for blocking a business sidewalk; of course I chose the citation and went on my way taking photographs.”
Plantz was cited with San Diego Municipal Code 83.0203 (Pedestrians Standing on Sidewalks).
As part of the National Day of Action, Occupy San Diego protesters will rally today with local unions and activist organizations at the Clairemont Drive Bridge and hold a press conference by the visitors center at 4 p.m., inaugurating a satellite protest called Occupy Mission Bay.
“We’ve already changed the political discourse in this country,” Garcia said at yesterday’s press conference. “Every poll that’s been taken shows that there’s tremendous popularity and support for the Occupy movement across the country… In every city, every time they try to crush our movement, we come back stronger every time. And there’s no reason to think that this will be any different.”